Category : America

Remember when Bitcoin was $100? You know, like 2 months ago? Well now it has leaped up $100 in just 4 hours, rising from $500 to $600 USD before retreating slightly.

Bitcoin on Nov 18, 2013

It seems the Little Currency That Could is making a run at $1000. We’ll soon see if it can make it before the bubble bursts again.

But why  are people investing in this crazy “virtual currency” anyway?
When I first stumbled across Bitcoin back in 2011, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It seemed a pretty quixotic goal, making a new currency just for the internet. I knew the network effect was critical for gaining any traction, and at the time it was just the province of a few cypherpunks, led by a mysterious figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto who hasn’t been heard from since 2010. This person or group started the whole thing with a white paper laying out how it would work. Soon the system was up and running. There were a few bumps along the way but this resilient idea has since caught on and now there are a flurry of competing crypto-currencies — that is, digital money that’s secured by lots of complex math.

There’s more to Bitcoin than just another internet scam or tulip craze. The underlying technology that makes Bitcoin work is not smoke and mirrors. You can see it working every day as money is transferred all over the world, nearly insantly. All you need is an internet connection, which of course is needed for any sort of online banking you do with traditional money. Bitcoin’s genius is making large-scale, distributed cryptography work for the masses.

That’s the important point: Bitcoin works for the masses, unlike traditional fiat currencies like the US Dollar. Despite our democratic ideals, American money policy is decided behind closed doors by a secretive agency that fiddles with interest rates and makes huge bond purchases with money it creates from nothing. Transparency is not the Federal Reserve’s style.

Money for the masses
With Bitcoin, the code is open source and there is no central authority or bank — the job of verifying transactions is distributed across the globe. Don’t trust Bitcoin? Review the source code yourself and suggest changes if the security is not up to snuff. Let there be no mistake — Bitcoin is not yet out of “beta” and is not financed by a huge corporation with a strict delivery timeline. Nope, this is a bunch of self-appointed Guardian Nerds who mostly have day jobs not related to Bitcoin (except lead developer Gavin Andresen, who is paid by the nascent Bitcoin Foundation).

With that in mind, it’s best to think of Bitcoin as something that will be really cool and world-changing…

But it isn’t yet. Not until an easier payment system is deployed (it’s being developed now) and a stronger ecosystem of merchants accepting the currency emerges. What we’re witnessing now is a speculative landgrab because smart folks know that Bitcoin’s current market cap of 5 or 6 billion is chump change compared to what a fully mature, global digital currency would have if it were successful. To put it in comparison, Bill Gates could buy the whole Bitcoin economy nearly 10 times over, even in this midst of this bubble.

But is this a bubble or merely staggered massive growth?

Bitcoin versus traditional forms of money
Many valuations have been tossed about for Bitcoin. Most are probably overly optimistic, but the naysayers ignore the fact that Bitcoin was cleverly designed to be a store of value first and a currency second. It’s been derided as a “deflationary currency” even though it’s presently inflating at over 10% as new bitcoins are mined and put into circulation. Though misunderstood, Bitcoin is just on a somewhat-flexible schedule of inflation that will limit it to at most 21 million coins. It will take nearly 100 years for it to inflate from the present total of 12 million to its final total of 21 million. That’s not a bad thing — you can plan your life around that, whereas the Fed could change course tomorrow and you’d have no recourse except to try and compensate for what you think might be their new strategy.

Make no mistake: Bitcoin threatens inflationary currencies because it offers a release valve available to regular folks if the government and/or central bank decides to inflate your currency (as they inevitably do). That’s a good thing because competition among currencies can only help consumers and merchants. Central banks won’t be able to inflate secretly without the price of Bitcoin being affected.

Bitcoin is still pretty clumsy as a currency, but it works well as a store of value as long as you follow proper security procedures and principles. Does your password contain your name or birthday or even the word “password” in it? Does it have the string “12345″ in it? Perhaps you should not buy any bitcoin until “Bitcoin Banks” emerge to offer security to the security-impaired. The bad thing about a global, distributed currency is that it can be stolen remotely too. Don’t skimp on the passwords and don’t keep everything all in one place, like your email account which could itself be hacked. Enable 2 factor authentication where available.

Soon, major merchants will start accepting Bitcoin because they want to save money on credit card transaction fees and/or Paypal charges. Bitcoin is close to free (currently around 3 cents, regardless of the size of the transaction) versus the 2 or 3% fee associated with credit cards.

China: the sleeping giant awakens
Much of the current boom has been driven by enthusiasm in China. During the last huge bubble in April China was barely a participant. This time they are driving the whole market and are responsible for more than half of all exchange trades which consistently outweighs the USD. The Chinese seem to like Bitcoin. A lot.

That means we’re in uncharted waters. Who knows the depths of their desire for bitcoin? Their proclivities could change the world because the Chinese and westerners have different philosophies of money. The Chinese are savers whereas the West has encouraged spending and investment through inflationary currencies that need to be earning you money or solving a problem, or else they are losing value. Much of western civilization is predicated on this quirk of our monetary system. Before, the only way to opt out was to buy gold and silver, but Bitcoin offers a new way to preserve value over time, but has the advantage that it can be sent anywhere in the world cheaply and in about an hour.

That’s why people have taken to calling Bitcoin things like Digital Gold and Gold 2.0. It could become a whole new asset class.

Bitcoin is a blessing and a curse for the Obama Administration
That’s been a problem for the US Government  – it doesn’t know how to classify Bitcoin for tax and regulation purposes. Is it a currency? A store of value? An asset? A security? A collectible? A stock in some hippy/libertarian enterprise? All of the above?

While many observers thought that the US regime would quickly make Bitcoin illegal because of its threat to the US Dollar, it now appears Washington is going to take a more wait & see approach, partly because the Chinese boom seems certain to incubate a new wave of start-ups and millionaires just like the early PC revolution did in the 80s and the internet boom did during the late 90s. Lawmakers face a stark choice: Do you want this new round of innovation to happen in Silicon Valley… or Shanghai?

Besides, Obama/Congress making Bitcoin illegal would only apply to the US and would only serve to drive it underground.  The Feds could try to eradicate it on the internet (at the cost of our liberties), but they would ultimately succeed only restricting commerce. Bitcoin is easy enough to hold offline as a paper wallet. I’m not sure if the US government even still bothers to feign interest in the plight of oppressed peoples living under dictatorships unless there happens to be some oil nearby, but if they did care, Bitcoin is a great way to effect commerce outside the grip of a despot. The obvious early candidates for Bitcoin merchants is any business involving the internet so buying a web domain with bitcoin is already possible. Soon other anti-censorship tools could become available with a digital currency that is difficult for authorities to track if you use appropriate anonymizing tools.

Is Bitcoin anonymous? Sort of.
It should be noted that Bitcoin is not fully anonymous. In fact, every transaction ever made is stored in a huge public ledger (the “Blockchain”) that is hosted and shared by anybody running a Bitcoin node. This helps verify that coins aren’t spent twice and ensures that only the person with the private key can access them. However, you can take steps to make sure no one knows you have that address. Bitcoin addresses are called “wallets” and they are basically both the wallet and bank account of Bitcoin. You can create a new one with a click of a button. No identifying information is required, but the NSA will still be spying on all your activities on the internet (as I’ve been saying for years, but we’re all supposed to be shocked) so tread with caution.

Golden Future: What does the future hold for Bitcoin?
So what does the future hold for Bitcoin? No one knows for sure, but I think we are watching history unfold. People scoffed at the idea of a personal computer. They scoffed at the internet and at mobile phones too. Yet the tide of history flows onward like the River Nile, demolishing our preconceptions and old ideas that no longer serve us in its inexorable ebb and flow.

In the wake of the financial disaster of 2008 and the lingering malaise (even as the Dow breaks 16,000), we have to wonder if our current concept of money is still working. In the old days, money was gold. Or silver. But we banished that idea to the distant past when paper money (which were originally certificates redeemable for gold or silver) caught on. But in the age of derivatives and CDOs and quantitative easing, perhaps it’s time to reassess if paper money — which somehow transformed into digital money in the last few decades — is really helping us.

So the idea of digital money isn’t even new. And neither is Bitcoin’s slow, steady inflation level because it mimics how gold is mined. But the idea of a currency created through cryptographic equations and run on normal PCs is radically new and revolutionary. Could it be that Bitcoin is the best of both worlds, the best of the old and the new?

Time will tell. But Bitcoin is just the first of what promises to be many cryptocurrencies. If Bitcoin doesn’t get it right, it’s likely that some other crypto-coin will.

Learn more about Bitcoin at WeUseCoins.com. Bitcoin has a significant learning curve and it’s worthwhile to invest some time into understanding it before you dive in. And if you’re going to buy in, wait until this current bubble pops. And pop it will, but I bet it will still be higher than it was 2 months ago.

You might be telling your grandkids about way back in your day when a bitcoin was only worth 600 dollars. And your grandkids will ask, “What’s a dollar?”

If I were running for president, I would stake my campaign on a single issue. An issue of the utmost importance in our time of existential peril. I’m talking of course, about my plan to give the Statue of Liberty a boob job.

The Statue of Liberty -- See? She's totally flat.Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why is he running on this issue when the economy, the environment and our political system are on all on the brink of collapse? It’s because of that last, actually. Our political system is so fucked up that the candidate that’s making the most sense right now is Stephen Colbert. That’s why giving the Statue of Liberty a boob job is so important. In a system where nothing makes sense, only the absurd can be enlightening.

I’m sure there are legitimate concerns with my plan, such as, What will France think? That’s fair, since they gave us the landmark back in 1886 in return for the cessation of France jokes (oops?). But you know, if any country is going to be okay with sexing up a work of art, I think France is that country. Heck, they banned the burqa over there; so now French women have to show skin. It’s the law! I can’t wait for whatever form of titillation they enshrine into law next. I’m betting on National Bikini Month during June. What a great country!

Here in America, our culture reflects our simultaneous fear of and obsession with sex. Our Puritan past manifests in both our paleo-conservative candidates and our raunchy television, even though nudity is practically verboten. Our brave entertainers have managed to squeeze every last drop of titillation out of our FCC censorship regime. In order to honor Hollywood’s quest to defend liberty and show boobies, it’s clear that we need to give Lady Liberty a Wonderbra and some serious cleavage.

Besides, the Statue of Liberty should reflect our shared culture. We’re pretty crass by this point so we might as well embrace it. So we should make sure to give Lady Liberty a handgun and a cheeseburger while we’re at it.

The whole “liberty” thing is pretty played out, too. I mean, come on — liberty is no longer a priority for our country. If it were, why would we have a not-so-secret torture camp on Cuban soil called Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp? It’s beyond the normal laws of our fair land and exists only to torture and imprison those foreigners we’ve captured — but not tried in a court of law. No, that would respect our (outmoded?) tradition of due process and equality for all. Now that Republican crowds will regularly boo the Golden Rule, peace, gay soldiers, uninsured Americans and the mere mention of Mexico, I think we can put the whole “Liberty” thing to bed. What Americans really want these days is Vengeance. So I suggest we drop the Flame of Liberty (put it in a museum, where it belongs) and give Lady Liberty a battle-axe instead. All the better to behead the terr’rists with, right?

The State of Liberty used to be a mirror of what we’ve achieved as nation. Now it’s an embarrassing reminder of how bad things have gotten, like how an old photo of you (from when you were young and fit) mocks the present reality. We need to bring the Lady into alignment with our present-day existence so we can forget about how out of whack things have gotten. To that end, Lady Liberty is going to need some tatoos (a tramp-stamp, obviously), an Oompa-Loompa-colored fake tan (Jersey is right next door, they should have enough spray-on tan for the whole statue), and a WWJD bracelet that she never looks at.

It’s not easy to be the guy who points out that shit’s fucked up, but I will be that guy (until I get tired) and I will fight for you in Washington (unless you elect a bunch of assholes to Congress — which you do every time) and I won’t shy away from the truth (but the truth will make you shy away from me).

So when it comes time to cast your vote just write in “Vemrion” and then we’ll get going on this boob-job thing. You deserve it, America.

The fact that no group of disaffected Washington insiders have even attempted to form a centrist third party is, in itself, a pretty strong argument that all the insiders already know the game is rigged. There’s no chance of a moderate third party gaining significant support anymore. The time was ripe, even just a few years ago, but as this article about the decline of the Blue Dog Democrats — the conservative wing of the Democratic party — points out, voters are voting out moderates.

There is an element of irony to this; the Blue Dog’s centrism was directly responsible for the toning down of some of the most progressive aspects of the original House version of the Affordable Care Act (AKA healthcare reform) and the elimination of the “public option.” Republican and moderate voters rewarded their centrism by voting them out. Despite some of these members’ popularity, the Democratic brand in their districts had been too tainted.

As the first commenter on the above article mentions, the same is true of moderate Republicans. Moderates on both sides of the aisle are being ostracized by their parties and shunned by voters (partially as the result of decreased financial support from the party apparatus, which means less TV ads).

Cast out of their jobs and their respective parties these wandering politicians and their staff would no doubt commiserate at the bar and start unifying into a cohesive new political force, right?

Wrong. There has been no serious attempt at centrist third party and it’s really suspicious that there has not been one. The idea is so obvious that you have to wonder if the insiders are afraid of something. Instead of the natural fractioning and reassembly of a multi-party system we are watching the two parties get more extreme and less able to agree on anything (except their mutual preference for a two-party system), so it leaves us with a completely deadlocked Congress. Voters on both sides thought the solution to the financial crisis was to swing the ship of state to their side, but in the end we just kept going straight. The so-called “super-committee” set up to shave trillions off our debt failed, just as it was designed to do. The rocky shoreline is now dead-ahead.

Who can turn this ship? Obama? No, he has no real power. With a completely deadlocked Congress the president is rather impotent. Any radical solutions on Obama’s part will be crushed with fervor by the right and with meekness by the paid-for left. The number of uncorrupt, intelligent and generally decent congress-critters probably numbers less than 100. The other 435+ will simply outvote the patriots and the zombie system will continue on its merry way towards the threatening shoals.

I wrote earlier that the chance of forming a third party to rebut the extremism of both parties is now zero. That’s for two reasons: First, the jagged shores are too close and second, the Occupy Wall Street has already claimed the political center and simultaneously radicalized it.

I must admit, I’m delighted by the movement’s acceptance by the mainstream population. Around 70% approve of or don’t mind the protesters nationally and 87% of New Yorkers are okay with their branch of Occupy Together. That’s a fantastic number for a protest group, and the weasel-faced party apparatchiks in Washington have surely taken notice by now. There must be a barely-controlled sense of panic in their hearts as they notice that OWS is out-polling Obama, either party, Congress (which recently came in at a laughable 9% approval rate) or basically any other institution like journalism, banks or the Supreme Court.

Despite the general perception that Occupy Wall Street is a leftist group, most of the people actually camping out are political independents. That means they either don’t vote because they think it’s rigged or they vote mostly third party and for the occasional mainstream politician who has won their support. Barack Obama was that candidate in 2008; can he be the one again in 2012? Things look doubtful, but Obama has wisely positioned himself near the group that is, essentially, more popular than he is. Will that lead to a more radical campaign platform, even one featuring bold, but practical solutions to the problems we face?

Anything is possible, but the conventional wisdom says … what? What does the conventional wisdom say we should do in a time like this?

There isn’t any “conventional” wisdom for these unconventional times. And any attempt at forming a moderate coalition will be crushed by the two-party apparatus — the only time they work in unison is when the two party system is threatened.

Humanity is facing a triple crisis: The most powerful nation is politically deadlocked and fading fast, the world’s economy is deeply sick and appears to be close to slipping into a coma from which it can never fully return, and the planet’s environment is calling out in pain and metamorphosing at an alarming rate. We are changing, but into what?

Maybe we should take a look at the birth-place of civilization as we contemplate its demise. In Egypt, there is hope.

First Egypt united to overthrew their rancid dictator in-all-but-name Hosni Mubarak, and now they have wisely and quickly sniffed out Field Marshal Tantawi’s attempts to subvert the transition to democracy by grabbing more power for the military. The people are back in Tahrir Square, protesting and dying for their freedom. It is heartening to see such a brave stand for democracy in Egypt, something we haven’t seen in America in a long, long time. But the Occupy Wall Street movement is borrowing the energy and idealism of the people of Egypt — and Syria and Tunisia and Yemen and even Israel! There are tent cities springing up all over the tiny state as its economy is squeezed by the global crunch.

We are in global revolution territory, folks.

The Occupy Together website shows just how global the movement really is. There are activities happening on every continent. There’s even an Occupy Antactica. Seriously.

As usual, the politicians are way behind the people. I’m not sure how much time is left before the 3 major crises’ Rubicons are reached, but somebody needs to do something before it’s too late. I don’t expect the current economic system to survive 2012. It might not even survive 2011 with the way things look in Europe. Every major economy is running on fumes, even China’s. We now stare down the precipice of complete and total collapse.

The powerlessness of Obama’s office notwithstanding, it is still an important center of symbolism in America. If he can find a way to tap into the Occupy Wall Street anger to effect real change in Washington it could be the trigger that’s needed to unleash the new world. The old economic system has to die, and politics-as-usual has to find a new normal. Then we can clean up this planet, unleash the hidden technologies suppressed by the oily elite and begin our journey into a Star Trek-esque future instead of a Terminator-esque future. Until the kidney-stone that is the global elite is removed from its obstructive position there will be little to no positive change on this world. To that end we must unify, occupy and reclaim the sword of liberty.

So rejoice, for the spirit of democracy still flows through the people. That is enough for me to sleep a little sounder at night, even as Late-Stage American Capitalism approaches the End-Stage. I hope there is a solution waiting in the wings (and I think there is), because this was is teetering on the edge. When it falls, Occupy Wall Street will only get more powerful. So you might as well occupy the future now.

President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden with great formality and solemnity tonight. This news has the potential to change our nation’s direction for good. It will be interesting to see what happens next as the global hoax that is the War on Terror (war of terror, more like) is getting wound down. That seems to be the natural course for things to take: We set out to kill bin Laden and we finally did it nearly 10 years later. It makes narrative sense to wrap this story up and move on.

Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden

And that’s what it is: A narrative, a story. The president took no questions and presented no evidence, be it DNA, a scrap of clothing, a gun, a flack jacket or even a Quran. No, what he did was tell a story. First, he told the story of 9/11, using the simplest terms and the broadest strokes, but identifying al-Qaeda as the perpetrator. Then he told a tale of how he was given intel on bin Laden’s possible whereabouts, followed up and eventually gave the order to move in and capture/kill.

Beyond the Official Stories
Seems simple enough until you remember that Osama bin Laden had been on dialysis as far back as 2000 because of a kidney disorder that the CIA said would kill him by 2010 at the latest. He also took time out his busy schedule to meet with the CIA shortly before 9/11; receiving last-minute instructions no doubt. The War on Terror has been fake from the beginning. Al-Qaeda was created by the CIA to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan back in the 80s; they never really left. They’ve been operating in the hills crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan ever since. The ISI, Pakistan’s version of the CIA, has been instrumental in this whole affair.

The whole government-sponsored astroturfing of the al-Qaeda brand is an interesting tale in itself. If you have time I highly recommend watching The Power of Nightmares, a BBC documentary about how fear is used to control the populace and how threats like Al-Qaeda are magnified or even created in order to manipulate the masses.

That’s how things went during the Bush and Blair years, but we’re seeing a new path emerging ahead. Is Obama showing the way out of the War on Terror’s Twisted Hall of Mirrors?

A Chance for Obama to Show his Quality
That’s what he has the chance to do. Will he seize it? It all comes down to what you think about Obama. He’s a tough guy to figure out. Don’t listen to the Birthers and the racists and the Islamophobes and the knee-jerk conservatives. Hate Obama if you want, but you should at least take the time to figure out why you hate him. There’s certainly a lot to take issue with on civil liberties, the escalation in Afghanistan, his dopey dismissal of the marijuana legalization movement, the limping economy and the way his administration has handled Bradley Manning. But I’m not convinced we can paint Obama with the tyrant brush. Tea Partiers who compare him with Hitler are out of their minds. GW Bush killed probably over a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan all told, but Obama has only a few hundred deaths by his order (which is not great, but seems to be par the course for American presidents). This new death is probably more of an illusion than reality, but it seems to be a lie with a somewhat more noble purpose than Bush’s lies leading to the invasion of Iraq. Obama is no saint, but painting him as a sinner like the Bushes is bit much.

Who is Barack Obama? A smooth operator, for one. He knows the game of politics as well as anybody. He has a way of floating above the fray. His “take the high road” approach is not an occasional tactic; it’s at the core of his strategy as a politician. But there are many times when a politician can only take the “somewhat less than the lowest part of the gutter road” because the political establishment has aligned itself in such a way that there are no good options. This happens quite a bit, unfortunately. The whole Beltway establishment is invested in the War on Terror and the Hunt for Bin Laden. You can’t just show up on the first day in office and pull the plug on the media’s favorite storyline. You’ve got to write the next couple chapters, as Obama did by ramping up our forces in Afghanistan — the Afghan Surge.

Next Obama set up the operation that would provide the cover to announce what he wanted to announce 2.5 years ago, but couldn’t because telling the truth in Washington is a good way to get mocked and ridiculed — or even assassinated.

Bin Laden in 2004 and fake in 2007No doubt bin Laden has been dead for quite some time; running around with a dialysis machine while being chased by American special forces in the wasteland of Tora Bora is not a good way to extend your lifespan. Around 2003 or 2004 Osama bin Laden stopped making videos… so the CIA and Intelcenter started making some fake videos for him! Most likely he was dead by then but the Bushies wanted to continue using Osama to spread fear and justify the War on Terror so they kept it quiet. Benazir Bhutto mentioned that Bin Laden was dead and managed to get assassinated herself shortly thereafter.

Stories Matter. Evidence? Not so much.
Was Obama able to procure bin Laden’s body? Who knows, but the physical evidence doesn’t really matter that much from a political point of view. The evidence has never mattered. There was never any evidence directly connecting bin Laden with 9/11 any way. The FBI never even put it on his wanted poster. There was never a good explanation for why 2 planes hit 2 buildings and yet 3 buildings fell down. A lot of people don’t even know about WTC Building 7 even though it was a 40+ story office building that hosted office space for the CIA, SEC, Secret Service and many more. A lot of people don’t know that the BBC reported that the building had collapsed before it did, despite it happening at 5 in the afternoon after some minor fires.

Evidence, I’m afraid, does not matter in Washington. What matters is the ability to tell stories and have people believe you. George W. Bush told a story about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The story turned out to not be true later, but it was too late by then. That story had given the neo-cons the cover they needed to invade, and once that was done they cast it aside and didn’t bother to defend its veracity anymore.

Osama bin Laden's secret underground lair... was a lie

Stories are powerful. They don’t even have to be plausible to get us hooked. Remember the story about bin Laden hiding in huge James Bond villain-esque underground fortress with cave entrances that Donald Rumsfeld told? Yeah, that was another fake story. But it worked, didn’t it?

Osama bin Laden was our bogeyman, our Emmanuel Goldstein, our Ernst Blofeld, our Commie-Nazi enemy par excellence. He was straight out of a James Bond movie and the mainstream media went wild with his tale, elevating him to Darth Vader status in our collective imagination. The stories were endless and they all came back to fear — that is if this guy seemed remotely threatening to you (he always seemed a bit fey and soft to me). The story always ended with the government needing more power to fight this shadowy enemy. Don’t ask questions, just let the nice man grope you at the airport.

The great thing about imaginary wars is that you can imagine a conclusion to them whenever you want. That seems to be what Obama has done to his near namesake, Osama. Now the story is over. People can start to relax, right? I’ve seen a bunch of people on Twitter asking if we still have to take our shoes off at the airport.

“Can we travel with big shampoo again??!”

“Guy on CNN, “Killing Osama ends the war on Terrorism.”  Yeah, um, does that mean I can have more than 3.4oz of liquids in my carry on?”

“Ok. So *now* can we start the 21st century?”

“Is gas still $4+? :/”

It’s time to end this story and start a new one. A better one.

Beautiful Execution
In a brilliant move to avoid being discovered, the Obama administration has said that bin Laden’s body will be treated in accordance with Islamic law. That means it will be buried within 24 hours.

Update: They claim they buried him at sea! No one will ever find the body now! So, we hunt for this guy for almost 10 years and first thing we do after catching him is chuck his body over the side of a boat? Okay…. (By the way, Abbottabad, where the operation took place, is hundreds of miles from the ocean.) I did some quick research on Islamic Burial Law and guess what — burial at sea is only permissible if the corpse would start to decay or cause problems:

620. * It is obligatory to bury a dead body in the ground, so deep that its smell does not come out and the beasts of prey do not dig it out, and, if there is a danger of such beasts digging it out then the grave should be made solid with bricks, etc.

621. If it is not possible to bury a dead body in the ground, it may be kept in a vault or a coffin, instead.

622. The dead body should be laid in the grave on its right side so that the face remains towards the Qibla.

623. * If a person dies on a ship and if there is no fear of the decay of the dead body and if there is no problem in retaining it for sometime on the ship, it should be kept on it and buried in the ground after reaching the land. Otherwise, after giving Ghusl, Hunut, Kafan and Namaz-e-Mayyit it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet. And as far as possible it should not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by the sea predators. [emphasis mine]

It would’ve been perfectly acceptable to keep the body in a coffin until the Navy returned it to American shores. Instead, they decided to dispose of the evidence — if there even was a body in the first place. It’s perfect — they don’t have to show us anything, except maybe some grainy photographs a few weeks later. This is a smart move on Obama’s part; Islam provides cover for the quick burial (or at least enough to keep Islam-ignorant Americans satisfied) and Obama can pretend he did it to appease Muslims. He also made a point of saying we were not at war with Islam during his speech. Most Americans won’t question the obvious because they’re so glad to finally be rid of Bin Laden and Muslims won’t raise a stink in the hopes that America will stop persecuting them.

Obama is finally mopping up the remnants of the Bush administration’s horrible stench. The Global War on Terror, the Invasion of Iraq, the Hunt for Bin Laden, the Crusade Against Islam — all of these elaborate tales are being given their dénouement. And all on the anniversary of the announcement of Hitler’s death in 1945, too. It all seems so staged, but Obama has to play the game if he wants to change the rules. And now that he has successfully wrapped up Bush’s parade of lies Obama will reap the benefits of it in his approval rating. It also buys him more time to sort out the economy, which was teetering on the edge of utter collapse. Obama, in his deceitful way, has given us hope.

Are we finally free from the clutches of the powerful cabal that still strangles the world under the economic tyranny wielded by the Federal Reserve’s fiat money system? No, but we do have some breathing room and the wind at our backs for once.

I must be getting so old and cynical that I’m not really bothered by Obama’s go-along to get-along deception, perhaps because he understands the power of stories and how they can affect our collective mood. Obama has given us the happy ending we wanted when this story started 10 years ago. Who cares if it wasn’t a true ending? The beginning wasn’t true and neither was the middle. It was all a big fairy tale to cause fear, mistrust and anger, which the neo-cons could then use to make one last stab at complete world domination. But they failed, and now they’ve let Obama act as a Presidential Pooper-Scooper and clean up the office for the next deranged neo-fascist warmonger. But Obama is making the most of his role and moving us forward in a way that might push him to an easy re-election (given that the GOP’s leading candidates are either punchlines or wallpaper) and spare us another dip into madness for awhile. If he plays his cards right he might just tell us enough stories to permanently put the American oligarchy out of business. We’ll see. It’s a lot to ask of a guy, but these are stressful, dangerous times. We’re staring at so many economic, political and environmental problems that to do nothing is suicide. The Shadow Government thrives in the darkness. But expose it to the light and it shrivels up like a snake’s skin. Obama needs to seize this moment and move forward boldly to push his agenda (which manifestly seems to be much more positive than Bush’s even though Obama is not perfect by any stretch).

It’s strange that he’s been parrying with a man named Trump recently over his birth certificate. First he laid down the long-form certificate in question (a low-res PDF…), and how he’s played his presidential trump card to great effect, with perfect timing and excellent execution.

Obama's trump card

All Part of the Plan
He even seems to be trying to make friends with Pakistan, praising the country for its help (despite not clearly indicating that he asked permission to launch such a mission in their country) and hopefully signaling a withdrawal from that country’s western mountain-land. In another amazing “coincidence”, Pakistan/US relations are at an all-time low after CIA agent Raymond Davis killed two ISI agents on the streets of Islamabad and was arrested (and outed as CIA) by the Pakistanis. Obama really had no choice but to end the charade since the CIA could no longer freely operate in Pakistan; hundreds agents were being kicked out by the local government (there are supposedly 3,000 CIA spooks operating in Pakistan — and that’s the official number! One can only imagine how many there really are). Now that Obama has done so, he has the political cover necessary to drastically scale back the CIA’s operation in Pakistan and eventually get us out of Afghanistan, too. We’re looking at a whole new national security paradigm.

In another timing “coincidence” Obama just reshuffled his national security team as Secretary of Defense Gates retires again and Leon Panetta replaces him, who, as head of the CIA, needs to be replaced, which opens the door for Petraeus to step into the role. And that’s not the only ground-shaking national security event that has taken place in the last week or so! There was a new national security grand strategy floated by the office of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces (all the heads of each branch of the military). It replaces the “containment” strategy that the US used during the Cold War — and even afterwards since it was not replaced, only tweaked for the War on Terror era, which is now ending. The new document is credited to a Mr. Y, the pseudonymous follower of the Containment Strategy’s Mr. X. The new document suggests ways to shrink the military and completely realign our national security posture. Look at these 5 key strategic shifts:

  1. From control in a closed system to credible influence in an open system.
  2. From containment to sustainment.
  3. From deterrence and defense to civilian engagement and competition.
  4. From zero sum to positive sum global politics/economics.
  5. From national security to national prosperity and security.

Read the whole National Security Narrative article here. They even use the same story metaphor I’ve been using in this post:

A narrative is a story. A national strategic narrative must be a story that all Americans can understand and identify with in their own lives. America’s national story has always see-sawed between exceptionalism and universalism.

A New Hope?
Obama is ending the Bush-era story of terror and beginning a new narrative of peace. It’s hard to overstate just how incredibly important this change is to our nation. Prepare for a couple weeks of breathless analysis from the media. No doubt few people will point out how ridiculous the whole story is — it’s too much fun to ruin it with reality. Nobody will question why Navy Seals were involved (in the most mountainous and landlocked part of Pakistan), or how Osama managed to live in a million dollar mansion undetected for months (even years) and nobody will question a dialysis patient supposedly firing his gun at US troops (but missing — bad guys have bad aims, right Hollywood?) or that Osama was hiding just 50 miles from the capital of Pakistan. But that’s besides the point. The point is that we have a chance to write a new future that doesn’t include the paranoia, aggression and hatred that the Bush admin’s narrative did. We can unify the world under peace instead of terror. Let’s all celebrate this happy news, even if it is totally fraudulent. Why? Because buried at sea along with Osama Bin Laden is the War on Terror, the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan and the whole wretched Bush presidency. Good riddance to them all.

Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead!

This story is old and played out. Let’s write a new one that includes peace and unity throughout the world… and beyond.

They walk among us. Normal people, like you or me. But inside the corners of their ratty little minds they carry a dark, hideous secret: They own a leaf blower.

I know, I know. It’s easy to hate them, like SUV drivers, sweet sixteen psycho-princesses and those happy-slapping chavs who run around hitting unsuspecting people and filming it. But owning a leaf blower does not make you a shitty person. A crappy one, yes. But not shitty.

It’s not the individuals who own leaf blowers who concern me; it’s the whole problem of Leaf Blower Culture that keeps me up at night (that, and the noise). This is not to say the leaf blower wielders are innocent however. It is their weakness that ruins things for the rest of us. But what flaw in our collective psyche allowed it get to this point?

The Human Flaw
The skull-rattling noise of leaf blowers is the real reason that people use them, I suspect. Far from being the biggest flaw, it’s actually what attracts these weak, pitiful souls to it, desperately wanting to make some impact in the world, wrongly or rightly.

Backpack leaf blowerAlthough commercial grade leaf blowers are spendy at around $500, a small consumer version can cost as little as 40 bucks (plus gas). Like SUVs, the relatively cheap price combined with the vibrant feeling of pure mechanical power gives consumers a drunken sense of maniacal glee.

A few hours after the purchase you can find many people softly, sickly laughing as they swirl the leaf blower around like a bloated magical wand, causing a small wind storm along with an incredible cacophonous noise heard blocks away. Screaming over the monstrous din, they dance through the lawn with their mechanical version of Voldemort’s wand spewing forth a steady stream of devilish noise and blustery fury. Somewhere deep in their gollum-like mind the voice of a mad-man rings loudly in their hollow hearts:

“HAHA!! Yes!! I am making those leaves flee before me! I am invincible with my precious blower! Cower before me, you stupid leaves! I’ll blow you clear across the lawn! MUAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!”

He is no longer a balding and pot-bellied middle-aged suburban dad. He is Leafmancer the Majestic, master of all who cross his path. Dare ye to speak to him over the bilious noise of his quivering instrument of power? Nay, he will not hear your pleas. He does not concern himself with such trifles as your feelings. “Back off, before I blow you off!” he hisses in an inaudible whisper.

A Cost/Benefit Ratio Forrest Gump Could Deduce
This simple device encapsulates everything that is wrong with American culture from a social, environmental and technological standpoint. Let’s look at what a leaf blower does and it’s advantages versus disadvantages.

A leaf blower is basically a reverse vacuum cleaner. It blows instead of sucks. But what goal does it accomplish, what societal need does it address?

It replaces a rake.

That’s it. As far as I know, there is no other common use for a leaf blower than the function that is easily accomplished by the common rake, which can be purchased at hardware store for 20 bucks and requires no fuel or maintenance and operates nearly silently.

The leaf blower does its job extremely poorly — and it does so very loudly — yet people still flock to this useless, feeble technology.

5 guys with leaf blowers

To really drive this home, and be fair to leaf blowers, I will now list the advantages and disadvantages of this machine:

Leaf blower pros:

  • Slightly faster? Maybe, but I’ve seen workmen accomplish virtually nothing in an hour’s time, like a retarded monkey pushing around a box of sand
  • Some can suck up and mulch the leaves, but most people don’t have or use this functionality; the device is technically referred to as a “blower vac” in this capacity
  • Although they ostensibly reduce human energy output, using high-powered machines is somewhat difficult and still makes you sweaty. I don’t see many grannies using them

Leaf blower cons:

  • Loud as a fucking airplane
  • Expensive compared with a rake
  • Requires continual purchase of costly fossil fuels
  • Causes air pollution and leaves the stench of gasoline
  • Creates huge plumes of dust & debris, some of which can lodge themselves in your eye
  • Not as good at creating leaf piles as a rake
  • Heavier than a rake
  • Bulkier than a rake
  • Has moving parts and requires regular maintenance such as:
    • Cleaning or replacing the filters
    • Replacing the spark plugs
    • Cleaning the fan blades
    • Cleaning the air intake
    • etc. etc.
  • Doesn’t work without a fuel source yet still requires human control/power
  • If you’re using a leaf blower, you’re pissing off everybody around you

Meanwhile, a rake just fucking works. (Plus, it can be used to sneak up and attack people using leaf blowers.)

Leaf blower mouth

A Cultural Sickness that Reveals Our World’s Rotten Soul
Our world teeters on the edge of economic, environmental collapse and I’m worried about leaf blowers? Well yes, because if we think leaf blowers are a good idea then I weep for our noisy, pointless future. Why does our culture accept and use these technologically gimmicky bullshit tools when perfectly acceptable old-school tools exist? Is it sheer laziness or a delirious lust for auditory power? I’m afraid our leaf blower addiction reveals far more about our society than we would ever want to grok.

Corporate priorities tend to distort things. In recent years the idea that there’s a technological solution to every problem has been driven into the corporate drone’s head. He knows all his competitors are using leaf blowers. He thinks that a rake looks low-tech and that customers are more impressed with technology than simplicity. He expects a lawn care service company to show up with a trailer full of gas-powered goodies, all of which make an unholy racket. It’s part of our cultural expectations at this point: If you’re not making a shitload of noise, are you really doing anything?

Blame it on our Genes
Our monkey brains are helpless before the lure of shiny, noisy tools. If this is the best we can do, perhaps the world would be better off without us. Dolphins don’t have leaf blowers. When they enslave us, they will say it’s for our own good and they might actually be right. That’s what scares me. Still, rakes sit lonely and dust-covered in millions of garages, wondering, like some jilted lover, what it did to push us into the arms of that supercharged demon-mistress next to it. Will America remember the simple, subtle beauty of the common garden rake before it’s too late?

We could certainly use the exercise.

This is one cultural deficiency I can’t blame solely on the Oligarchy (although our elite-encouraged oil addiction is a contributing factor). It’s our own stupid lust for power that led us to this point. If we keep this up I’m gonna start cheering for the goddamn lizard people. Bring on the brainless zombies (armed with leaf blowers, of course).

C’mon, folks: Evolve already!

A Future Fraught with Free Leaves
I’m not the first person to complain about this plague; leaf blowers are illegal in several cities and people have bitched about them for decades. Yet, here we are in 2011 and they’re still fucking here.

The most ironic part is that leaves will win this battle in the end. Leaves will be blowing freely long after humanity has slit its own throat and withered, gurgling and gasping, into the heedless sands of history.

Are leaves such a horrible infestation that they must be removed from our urban green spaces? What about the incredible amount of noise and air pollution that is being added to the atmosphere in their place? We are truly a sick culture if we think this is an acceptable trade-off. I will risk the fucking leaves, thank you very much. Maybe our feral, wretched descendants will use them as currency.

The guy who invented the rake must be rolling in his fucking grave. He’s just lucky he can’t hear it when they blow the leaves off his gravestone.

Are all of these corruption scandals and bailouts for the rich just a ‘confluence of interest’ wherein the richest people in the world just happen to all be on the same page? Did all of these attacks on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange just materialize out of the shared frustration of ultra-rich patriots?

Or is there something darker at work?

While I agree confluence of interest makes it possible for the elite to work towards the same ends without ever talking to each other, doesn’t it also make it more likely they would see the benefit in conspiring since their interests are already aligned? Why not coordinate your attacks?

It’s not like we can stop them either way.

The editor of the New York Times has recently admitted they let the US government review all of the WikiLeaks docs the NYT published, before they were published. While not technically a conspiracy (because it’s not illegal), this is just one more example of how the supposedly independent news outlets of the US are really just state-run media with a few corporate strings attached. I highly recommend reading this Glenn Greenwald article.:

It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government, but that says a lot about the politics here…

The independent mainstream press is a fantasy.

There are all of these datapoints (secrecy, lies, corruption, bailouts for the rich, etc.) that obviously point to a conspiracy by the powers that be and yet many are still bound and determined to not look deeper into the maw of malfeasance that has engulfed our political and economic systems.

I guess I’ll mention the “I” word since we’re heading that direction already: Do you know who the Illuminati are? They’re glorified bankers. They are behind-the-scenes power-brokers who have enough money to make or break nations by either granting or denying loans. Look at the Rothschild family for a quick overview and just remember what happened when the bankers collapsed our economy 2 years ago. The government and the Federal Reserve (which the Illuminati basically owns outright) were quick to give them trillions upon trillions of dollars. That’s why you buy government officials off; it’s well worth it.

The natural course of human economic affairs is towards consolidation. Think of the Illuminati as a criminal gang who managed to forge a monopoly/oligarchy. They are the ultimate cartel. Do you believe in the Mafia? Well, believing in the Illuminati is no different; just a more refined — almost classy — version of Sicilian justice. Instead of controlling prostitution, gambling and drugs, the Illuminati control whole countries (wherein they let the Mafia run the aforementioned underworld black-markets).

I think we need to look at the endemic corruption that surrounds us as an invitation to dig deeper. Don’t flinch and stop looking because the horror is too great. We have no hope of getting our country back as long as we believe the party line that corruption in government is just the result of a few bad apples.

Here’s a question: How come (according the Media) corruption in banking, government and other white collar jobs is always the result of “a few bad apples” but whenever some dumbass Muslim kid buys an explosive it’s always a huge, global, interlocking terrorist conspiracy sworn to destroy us for our freedoms?

Seems awfully convenient.

Meanwhile the Democrats are caving on extending Bush’s tax cuts for the richest 2% — at a cost of $700 billion — in order to get a measly $60 billion in unemployment benefits from the Republicans. What a fucking joke. As per the usual plan the Democrats pretended to fight the good fight, then took a fall in the last round to give the Republicans another preordained victory. You’d think the party that controls the Senate and the presidency could scrounge a bit more out of the party that will soon control only the House, but that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world of conspiracies. If it gets much more obvious, those of you who still deny it will be the ones accused of being nutjobs. In fact, I think we’re at that point. How do you explain this and the other issues I’ve raised, if not through the machinations of the ruling class? And if the ruling class does act as one being through a confluence of interest, how is that any functionally different from a nefarious conspiracy?

Either way we’ve gotten to the point where the system does not even pretend to work for the common man anymore. We need more organizations like WikiLeaks to shed light on the inner working of our government, the banking apparatus and high-powered corporations.I highly recommend this article, which is itself a summation of a post by Julian Assange on how WikiLeaks hopes to disrupt the ability of conspirators to plan and execute their conspiracies by throwing their communication into the light. A taste:

Conspiracies are cognitive devices. They are able to out-think the same group of individuals acting alone. Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate (the conspiratorial environment), pass through the conspirators and then act on the result. We can see conspiracies as a type of device that has inputs (information about the environment), a computational network (the conspirators and their links to each other) and outputs (actions intending to change or maintain the environment). Since a conspiracy is a type of cognitive device that acts on information acquired from its environment, distorting or restricting these inputs means acts based on them are likely to be misplaced. Programmers call this effect garbage in, garbage out. Usually the effect runs the other way; it is conspiracy that is the agent of deception and information restriction. In the US, the programmer’s aphorism is sometimes called “the Fox News effect”.

So basically, Assange plans to starve the beast of its communication system and limit its ability to act unobserved. This will send a shockwave of panic and inaction through the mind of the conspiracy, rendering it unable to formulate new plots and execute them with any efficacy. It’s a bold aim, to be sure. But something has to be done. Conventional attempts to solve the very real problems have not worked. They haven’t worked because the game is rigged; you can’t vote “Them” out of power; they own both parties. Only when people start to see the very real conspiracies that perpetuate our very real problems will we get close to solving said problems. The current system is set up so we have no real choice or voice.

Before you let America’s (or your own) apathy subsume your hope for the future just take a closer look at what Assange is doing. He’s trying to cripple the conspiratorial consciousness. It’s not fantasy — after Iceland decided not to bail out the bankers it caused a temporary breakdown in the control-grid. That created an opening and Iceland is using it to write a new constitution.

It’s not going to be easy, but this is our moment. We’re finally seeing the control-grid crack and openings start to appear. Maybe if/when the banksters demand another bailout we can mount a better organized campaign to make sure Congress doesn’t accede, then use the momentum to bring our own Constitution back online.

Darkfold’s video for Echelon

I’m in a band. We make rock music. We occasionally make videos for our songs. This one is for a song called “Echelon.” For those of you who are aware of the ECHELON program, you might find greater resonance in the song and its meaning. As it’s our first real attempt at a ($0 budget) music video we’d love to hear what you think!

More info on Darkfold:

As you may be aware, Japan recently elected a new party into power after decades of dominance by the Liberal Democratic Party. The new party (Democratic Party of Japan) promised to be less “passive” in regards to the US. This has not gone over well within the bowels of the Pentagon:

In November last year, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned Japan that it would face “serious consequences” if the new government did not honour the commitments on the bases given by the former government. During his visit, Gates loudly lobbied for an extension of the military bases agreement.

Imagine if a foreign emissary came here warning us to do as he says or there will be “serious consequences”. Such arrogance is why the Japanese are unwilling to continue being our thankless sidekick.

China is also a factor. Japan seems to be throwing its lot in with China and other eastern countries, probably because our bullying behavior and rapidly-declining-in-value currency are getting really annoying.

Is this The Powers That Be’s way of getting back at Japan? It’s more of a warning than a crippling blow, but things could escalate quickly if the wall of secrecy continues to crumble:

The recent revelations of secret security pacts with the U.S. have inflamed public opinion. The Japanese Foreign Minister has appointed a team of scholars to delve into the Foreign Ministry’s archives to track down secret documents relating to security ties with the U.S.

“Secret agreements”? Yeah, this is when the conspiracy theorist in me starts paying attention. There is a lot more underneath the surface if you start to dig. If you find anything juicy, let me know in the comments.

I should also note that the US Government is currently the majority stakeholder in a direct Toyota competitor: General Motors. If “investigating” a foreign competitor to a state-owned business isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is. Congress has jumped the shark; we’d be better off with a bunch of muppets in charge.

Meanwhile, he Japanese people and their media are watching events in Congress closely, and they are familiar with Kabuki drama.

Still, the Japanese media have carried a number of articles and broadcast segments analyzing the meaning of the upcoming hearing, many pointing to what they saw as political motives behind the actions by lawmakers and regulators.

Mark my words, this bit of political theater is not a coincidence.

I see a lot of common ground between liberals (i.e. leftist Democrats and independents) and libertarians (big L and small L). It’s unfortunate that a few fundamental issues divide them because there’s so much room for collaboration, especially when it comes to the calamitous policies of the Federal Reserve.

A Solution: First Steps
First, people need to chill out on both sides of this debate. Second, realize that what I’m proposing is not new, just misunderstood. I’ve jokingly called myself a libertarian socialist before, but today I found that there really is such a thing.

Now, what I’m about to do will piss off both liberals and libertarians, but I need to criticize both approaches before we can find a happy medium. This might be painful for you if you fall on one side or the other, but please bear with me; each side will get its fair share of abuse. And praise.

Neither Side is Perfect
The libertarians, especially social conservatives, need to realize that they do try to protect rich too much even though it’s the rich who created the Fed and many of our current economic problems. It’s the rich, after all, who can afford to thrive during times of moderate to high inflation because they can hire a team of accountants, investment bankers and so on to ride the rough waters of fiat capitalism.

Some well-meaning libertarians, being perpetually out of power, are gradually seduced into supporting right-wing bombthrowers like Glenn Beck, which only makes them look stupid, racist, backwards and irrational to a liberal. The tea parties have not succeeded because they are partisan and co-opted by mainstream Republican politicians like Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann, tapping into anger and doing nothing to really change things. If they were non-partisan End the Fed rallies that might be a step in the right direction. But many libertarians hate liberals because the Democrats who get elected tend to be corrupt establishment figures — just like Republican politicians.

Conversely, the leftist populists need to realize that Obama is not the savior they want him to be. He’s a politican like any other and he’s just playing the game. Note how little has changed since he took office. He’s made lots of noise about change, but our Empire is still killing peasants in Afghanistan, our privacy is still nonextistent as warrantless wiretapping continues, and our economy is still in the thrall of the rich as Bernanke gets re-upped for another term and the idiots who supported deregulation (like Summers) get cushy jobs in the administration. Meanwhile, Obama’s tackling (and losing) the health care fight when he should be focused on the economy first and foremost. I support universal healthcare, but the conservatives are right to question how we’re gonna pay for it. Shouldn’t we get our economic house in order before we make massive commitments to future spending?

The Health Care Riddle
The health care conundrum is a medium-sized part of our economic problems. The bigger problem is exactly what the Libertarians are talking about (and what progressive left-wing publications like the HuffPo are finally starting to realize): The secretive Fed’s embrace of fiat currency and fractional reserve banking will make peasants of us all.

This government, and everything in it (including Obama) is controlled by the banking apparatus. Look at how quickly the bailout and stimulus packages were passed in comparison to health care reform. And yet we could’ve easily paid for health care for every single American with the money we threw at the bankers so they could erase the red ink from their bottom lines and then refuse to give loans to regular people. Bonuses to executives are already back to pre-crash levels.

My point is that unless we fix the underlying issue we’ll be back at square one again. Unless a new amendment is added to the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free health care for all (not bloody likely) the bankers will find a way to put us back in the poor house again. Congress will bankrupt whatever public option we create unless it is rock-fucking-solid. Because of the inflationary and demographic bubbles we face, Social Security and Medicare will likely go bankrupt within a few decades. How will adding more financial obligations to the pile help us solve this mess?

Sometimes Society is to Blame
The typical libertarian response is to say “Get government off my back!” I think libertarians are susceptible to Republican messaging because the Republican politicians pretend to be in favor of limited government. And both libertarians and Republicans see poor people as failed and lazy.

Here’s something libertarians can learn from liberals: Sometimes the main forces that cause poverty really are society’s fault. More specifically to blame: government and corporate interests from banking to health care who are in favor of fiscally incapacitated citizens who thus become dependent on the state and the state’s favored corporations. Fiat currency and fractional reserve lending have created the underlying conditions that make this economic incapacitation possible.

Spending Our Way to Prosperity
Liberals have traditionally tried to solve this problem with even more government intervention. They see government as a tool they can use to elevate the playing field and give those people a shot at crawling out of poverty and back to fiscal independence. Libertarians have largely cried foul but haven’t proposed a practical solution and have in fact fallen for Republican Party propaganda (especially on taxes) when they should have stood with the poor. It is the poor who suffer most from the Fed’s policies.

Yet liberals who think we can continue to spend our way out of this mess are sadly mistaken. In fact, we’ve already spent far too much. It is perhaps the best response to the problem within the context of an inflationary world, but the Keynesian approach will ultimately collapse because the inflation is too destabilizing and it’s also incredibly iniquitous. Who here gets a check for inflation each month? Not me, but because of fractional reserve lending practices, banks benefit disproportionately from inflation. Liberals, just like right-leaning libertarians, are inadvertantly supporting the rich elites who create the problems they decry.

The Tree of Liberty
This crisis threatens to rend our nation apart but also presents an opportunity; a chance to end the Fed and the economic inequity it has wrought. And the only way that can happen is by unifying liberals and libertarians once again. Their names come from the same root word, after all — Liberty. Both sides need to make bold changes to come together, but the only way to achieve true economic liberty is by a combination of tight regulation of banks and specie-backed currency.

As FDR said:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Political liberty cannot come without economic liberty.

FDR Did Better Against the Nazis Than The Bankers
A lot of Libertarians hate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but what they don’t seem to realize is that he was fighting an all-out war against the corrupt banking and corporate interests who were colluding against the common man, and the levers of government were the only powers the president had available to him. The banker-controlled Fed, after all, caused the first Great Depression and FDR was forced to act quickly to stem the bleeding. Read this link for more insight into FDR and why he abandoned the gold standard — Europeans had already ditched gold and were buying up ours with their fiat currency, but FDR wanted to work out an international gold standard once the crisis subsided. And indeed, Bretton Woods was an attempt to do just that.

Roosevelt has been slandered as anti-business by many on the right. He was not; he was anti-Big Business. He stood up for all of America, not just the plutocrats. FDR’s Keynesian solution was imperfect but it bought time and saved the Union. If he had not acted quickly the Business Plot of 1934 may have succeeded and America may have spiraled into despotic fascism, never to return.

Corporate Power
Some libertarians have not been sufficiently suspicious of the motives of Big Business. They think that corporate rights are the same as personal liberty. They are not.

Corporations are amoral machines that must be controlled. Men should be free to do what they will, but who among us will argue that a man is free to run over people in his car because, by golly, he paid for that car and he controls it and he uses it to make money for his family, so anybody who tries to stop him is abridging his rights? Well, we shouldn’t let corporations driven by men to run amok any more than we should allow that of motor vehicle operators. It is imperative that libertarians understand that economic freedom is more fundamental and more important than corporate power.

A New Respect
Liberals, meanwhile, have long regarded libertarians a bunch of kooks; militia-joining types who are all paranoid gold-bugs who believe in anarchic and anachronistic principles. But libertarians have learned the hard way that governments can resort to tyranny whether they’re controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans. Democratic attempts to solve our basic economic problems have either been limp-wristed or misguided. Liberals need to take a look at the constitutional principles libertarians stand by and realize how closely they align with progressivism. Most importantly, liberals need to get past the false “left vs. right” dichotomy that the elites use to divide and conquer us. The marginalized, but proud Libertarian voters have defiantly supported their minor party despite no chance of winning.

Perhaps liberals will have more respect for libertarians and their journey through the political wilderness after the last 8 years of suffering their own indignity. Soured on big, invasive government (wiretapping, No Child Left Behind, literal invasions) during the Bush years, this is the ideal time for liberals to wake up and realize that they can only secure the freedom and prosperity by looking beyond the political and focusing on the very most fundamental monetary elements of our economy upon which the government and society are built. Libertarians are not greedy to focus on money; they are prudent. Unless we have a secure gold-backed money supply we will continue to have these crises, and at some point we can’t continue to solve them through social programs and endless spending. Inflation creates the poverty that we all fear. It’s time to end it.

This is my plea for liberals and libertarians to work together and remove the Federal Reserve’s charter. It’s time to take back our economic liberty. We don’t have much time to waste.

Booo!! Hissssss!!!!

He said “socialism”! Socialism is evil! Socialism is kinda, vaguely, sorta like communism, and therefore bad!

Seriously, people. Grow the fuck up.

I’m just as much against government waste and intrusion as anybody on this planet. Read this blog; you will find pages upon pages of my ranting, most of it aimed at government stupidity and evil. But enough with the “socialism is evil” crap.

You hate socialism? Fine. But now that you’ve talked the talk you’d better walk the walk.

That means you anti-socialists will support the following minor changes to our way of life — because that’s what it takes to build a Socialism-free America:

  • Kill the Social Security program — Let grandma starve in the woods. Fuck her, she’s a leech on society. Get a job, grandma!!
  • Get rid of Medicaid/Medicare — Let’s say grandma manages to drag herself out of the woods and to the hospital. Laws require her to be treated, but guess what — you, her offspring, are stuck with the bill. Grandma needs an expensive operation and you can’t pay for it? Oh well, dig a hole.
  • Fire Department is now privately run — Just like in Roman times, if you can’t pay for the Fireman to put your fire out — up front — he just lets it burn. (Ayn Rand’s paradise exists Obion County, Tennessee.) Yay for capitalism!
  • Police Departments are disbanded — only private security firms exist, and only if you can afford to pay for them. Because the warlord system of Somalia worked so well, we decided to copy it! (I’m going to join the mafia!)
  • No Libraries – real Americans buy books, you commies!
  • Toll Roads everywhere — including right in front of your house. Wanna get to work in the morning? That’ll cost you 5 bucks. Highways are for the rich; the poor could take the bus, but since transit companies are government-subsidized they won’t exist in our socialism-free uptopia! No more subways either! Yay!
  • No public education system — are your kids going to public schools? Well not anymore, since there aren’t any! Public schools = socialism, kids! Now only the rich will be able to afford private education, while the poor youths will form gangs and wander the streets all day when they should be inside learning! And since there’s no cops there’s no one to stop them! Yay, the best of feudalism and gang-culture! You conservatives really know how to make a first-class utopia!

And thanks to our brave men and women in Congress, there’s already no public healthcare system clogging things up! Our present system works great, so long as you’re wealthy and healthy!

Isn’t this socialism-free utopia great, you guys?! No welfare, no healthcare, no roads, no cops, no firemen, no schools! Wow! It’s like heaven, but with gangs, death and disease in abundance instead of love and harmony! Yay! This is great! The taxes are so low, if I had a job I’d be making lots of money!

Thanks, conservatives! You’ve shown us the error of our ways. Now I know that the only true way to live is like the animals — kill or be killed! Might makes right! The Laws of the Jungle are more important than the Laws of God! Jesus said, “love your neighbor”, but what he meant was “only if your neighbor can reimburse you in cold, hard cash!” Hell, why not murder him and steal his property — he’d do the same to you. That’s what living in this anti-socialist nirvana is all about.

… sigh.

I’m honestly not a big fan of socialism. I lean libertarian, politically, but economic liberty is important too, and it can easily be corrupted by the rich, who then make social mobility more difficult for the poor/middle class. Socialism, regrettably, seems to be necessary for humans living in large, diverse communities. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our political liberties to make the world a better place for all. But we may have to put a crimp on Goldman Sach’s ability to make shitloads of money off the taxpayers. Corporate welfare, mind you, I am 100% against!

Seriously, can we ascend above the 4th-grade style name-calling and trite platforms designed to generate much heat but no light? If you live in America, you already live in a quasi-socialist system. And I bet you enjoy your highways, libraries and schools, don’t you? Well, then you might as well embrace the socialism moniker, because to do otherwise would be hypocritical, childish and stupid. I’m sure the American conservative movement wouldn’t stoop to that, would they?

We need you, conservatives. We need you to stop playing games and start cutting deals. Your stupid anti-socialist crusades are fucking retarded and don’t stand up to a 5-second analysis. Try being constructive.

Unless we want to be a third-world country we’re going to need universal healthcare. Yes, it’s expensive, but by all measures, it’s less than what we pay now. I don’t understand how paying twice as much for a non-government run system is considered “efficient.” I think when people say that, they really mean “efficient for us rich folk.” That’s what it’s really about — protecting the rich (as if they were an endangered, cuddly baby seal or something). Couldn’t the rich muddle through somehow? Universal healthcare does not preclude a private healthcare system any more than public schools make private school impossible.

It will be okay. The sky won’t fall. We’ll just have less paperwork to fill out since the accounting/insurance snafu will no longer exist. Can’t we all get behind that slogan? Less paperwork, more healthcare. Is that too much to ask?

Probably.

Things look grim. I’m sure we’re not out of the woods yet — there’s a long way to go before we hit rock bottom.

You can probably guess my reaction to the bailout: SCAM!!

So, our plan is to give the people who fucked the economy billions of dollars with no real plan to get it back? Brilliant! How could that not work?

The assholes basically just got us to pay them for ripping us off. Quite the smooth move on their part. 

But you know, it’s basically rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic at this point. I don’t think $700 billion (actually, with all the pork it’s closer to $850 billion) will make a lick of difference. The problem is much deeper than that; it has to do with the way we create and regulate money, at the fundamental level. Basically, we need to return to the gold standard, eliminate fractional reserve lending and dissolve the Federal Reserve.

This will make for some bumpy transitions, as a nation used to 5% growth every year realizes that maybe 0.2% is more appropriate. Of course, the 5% growth stat is illusionary. You have to grow by 5% every year just to stay ahead of inflation. If you want to actually make money you need an even higher rate — which leads to risky investments. Wall Street wants ever-better numbers and the strain of achieving them has led many an executive to make risky, negligent or downright stupid investments. We need fiscal sanity! It may be boring, and less people will be able to make a living moving electronic numbers around, but it will bring stable beneficence to the majority of the world.

Problem: How to get there from here. 

Step one: Reach rock bottom.

We’re well on our way there. I’m afraid nothing will change without suffering because there’s no motivation otherwise. It’s a sad truth. The problem is that we’re speeding too fast towards rock bottom. We may hit it with the impact of a dinosaur falling off a thousand-foot cliff. That would basically end our civilization as we know it.


We need a soft landing. But how to get it? The fat-ass rich people stole the golden parachutes, but in a world where money is worthless paper what help will those parachutes be?

There’s no way out of this one, folks. We’re all gonna die unless somebody has been planning ahead with an altruistic and audacious plan to save us from our high-velocity trajectory straight into the ground.

We can’t look to the people in charge to save us — they’re the ones who got us into this mess. So I guess we don’t have many options. Who has a plan? Who has the resources to make it work? Who among us is bold enough to listen?

We are fast approaching the Rubicon.

Holy cow — lookout! There’s banks falling like boulders all around us!

Luckily for them, when big, important institutions such as investment banks fail, they fall right into the loving arms of the Bush administration.

AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch this week alone. Am I forgetting one? Probably. Now regulators are calling other banks looking for buyers in case Washington Mutual fails too.

Wall Street couldn’t be in worse shape if it was literally on fire.

But, the GOP is there to bail these irresponsible banks out of trouble with — you guessed it — taxpayer money.

Soviet Palin

That’s what the Establishment truly believes in: Socializing losses and privatizing profits.

God bless America, Comrade.