Any Chance of a Fair Election in 2016?

Although getting any sort of unanimity on political issues is impossible, you can come close when asserting the need that elections be free, open, and honest.  By that I mean that when someone casts his or her ballot for a particular candidate, that voter should have no doubt that the vote will be counted and counted accurately.  Even those candidates who might like the idea of rigging the ballot in their favor a bit will still publicly claim to support fair elections.

Without Fair Elections, Our System of Government is Sunk

This all makes sense.  After all, if the balloting process is corrupted and people find out, the winning candidates will lose legitimacy and their tenure in office will be under a cloud of suspicion.  None of this benefits the office holders, the voters, or our system of government.  Quite the opposite.  Office holders are then seen as usurpers, and thus their decisions are viewed as invalid even if followed.

All that aside, reality seldom matches the ideal.  So it’s reasonable to expect that when counting tens of millions of votes that there will be some errors.  And there will also be a few shady stunts pulled as well.  As long as the margins between the winning and losing candidates are large enough, irregularities are usually just brushed aside as unfortunate, but not enough to have impacted the outcome.  If the margin of victory is wafer-thin, then it’s a very different story.

Two Twentieth Century Elections as Examples

Restricting our discussion to the last half of the twentieth century, there are two presidential elections that stand out:  1960 and 2000.

1960:  Kennedy vs. Nixon

The 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon is instructive partly because of the alleged voting fraud in Chicago under the supervision of the Daley political machine.  In this case, the possible irregularities were significant since Kennedy’s vote tally in Chicago essentially awarded him the presidency.  It is also instructive because even with allegations of a rigged election and vote counting process, the country as a whole accepted the results of the election and the presidency of JFK as valid.

2000:  Bush vs. Gore and the Hanging Chads

The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore is interesting for a very different reason.  The controversy that erupted on election night didn’t center on accusations of voter fraud by one of the campaigns, but rather on the inability of the ballot counting system to generate an accurate result.  So the election result was not called into question primarily because of fraud, but due to mechanical failure.  Hence we had the notorious case of the “hanging chad.”

For those who might have missed all of this, machine vote counting used in this election depended on each spot on the punch-card ballot being either left solid or punched cleanly through by the voter depending on his or her choice.  What went wrong was that some of the punch cards were not punched properly by the voters, leaving the intended choice of candidates in doubt as the machines couldn’t determine the voters’ intentions without cleanly punched holes in the ballot cards.

With the difference in the vote totals between the two candidates measured in the hundreds, and Florida being the state at that point that would decide who became president, the pressure became intense.  We can remember the images of election judges examining each punch-card in an attempt to determine how the voter actually intended to cast his or her ballot.  As soon as things get that subjective in counting the ballots that will decide who goes to the White House, the decision will wind up being determined in the courts.

With one recount barely favoring George W. Bush, the Supreme Court intervened and ruled against Al Gore’s claim and ended the recounting, effectively giving Bush the presidency with a majority of Electoral College votes while a minority of the popular vote.  It was a recipe for continuing controversy and accusations that Bush’s presidency would be illegitimate.  And that’s what Americans got.

Clinton vs. Trump

This election has been extraordinary for so many reasons.

Neither candidate has a positive popularity rating, and much of the disapproval approaches downright hatred.

Groups like WikiLeaks and Project Veritas have given an unprecedented look into the inside workings of the campaigns, especially the Clinton campaign, and have revealed what are, if accurately reported, criminal actions to rig the vote.

One candidate, Mrs. Clinton, as well as her associates, have been under a continuing investigation by the FBI for fraud.  The email scandal involves  allegations that Mrs. Clinton, during her tenure as secretary of state, stored and transferred classified materials using private, non-secure means which is a felony.

Her and Bill’s Clinton Foundation is also under investigation for influence peddling and “pay to play” schemes where large foreign donors to the Foundation were given preferred access to the secretary of state and other favors from Mrs. Clinton.

We also have the spectacle of the Clinton campaign hiring thugs to disrupt Trump rallies, and in particular to bully women who would dare to betray their gender by showing up to support Trump.  This isn’t a matter of theory, either.  Officials of organizations retained by the Clinton campaign have been fired when leaked emails and hidden videos recorded by Project Veritas revealed their perfidy.

The investigations are continuing through election day.

Mr. Trump has not been immune from damaging revelations either.  A tape turned up that was made eleven years ago revealing some highly offensive comments made at the time by Mr. Trump about women.  The effort may have been made to write it off as juvenile “locker-room” talk, but the damage was done.  Mr. Trump was portrayed as a man who had a pretty aggressive sexual appetite.

Not to be outdone in the sexual scandal arena, old allegations of sexual abuse and rape allegedly committed by Bill Clinton surfaced.  It is questionable just how much impact this had, but it did serve to remind voters of the sleaze that never seems to be far from Mr. Clinton.

I could go on and discuss things such as the bizarre sexual behaviors in which both John Podesta who is Hillary’s campaign chairman and Anthony Weiner who is the husband of Hillary confidant Huma Abedin have been implicated, but it’s safe just to say that this has been one of the sleaziest and most viciously fought campaigns in memory.  Campaign ads and statements by the candidates themselves only reinforce the negative opinion the majority of voters have regarding both candidates.

So Will There be a Fair Election in 2016?

I doubt it — and writing that does not make me happy.  Crooked elections are a disaster for the Republic, compromise the legitimacy of the winners, and humiliate the country in front of a world that closely watches what happens in America.  And bogus elections infuriate the voters.

There are already reports, in the mainstream media no less, of electronic voting machines flipping Trump votes to Clinton.  Officials might point out that these are problems that can and will be fixed, but you have to wonder why the reports are only of Trump votes flipping to Clinton and not the other way around. (The election is in progress as this article is being completed.)

And it’s unlikely that media outlets like CBS are only reporting the instances of Trump voters having trouble getting the machines to register their votes for their choice.  After all, these media organizations are much more likely to be supportive of Mrs. Clinton.  So if Clinton votes were being flipped by these infernal machines to Trump, reports of this would clearly be hitting the news sites.

How We Get a Fair Election

Honestly, I see really only one way that this year-and-a-half-long ordeal ends fairly.  And that’s if one candidate wins with such a blow-out total of electoral votes that all the problems with voting machines, illegal campaign tactics, and outright voter fraud are not large enough to make a difference.

On the other hand, if we have a close election, where the decision rests on one or two states with extremely close popular votes, we can expect legions of attorneys filing an equally unprecedented number of lawsuits that cast doubt over the results for perhaps weeks on end, much like we experienced in 2000.  It’s not a happy prospect with a happy ending.

May we be spared of that fate.

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Is Indifference Shaping Our Future?

I am troubled tonight. Not so much over the loss of freedoms we’ve experienced in this country, although that deeply concerns me. Not even the economic crises I see in the future. It’s a bigger problem because I believe it feeds that loss of freedoms, both political and economic.

So please excuse me if my writing is a bit disjointed. I’m writing more from the stirrings of my heart than from an attempt at creating logical arguments. And since I understand how dangerous that can be, I thought I ought to warn you first.

I’m troubled because we seem to be encountering something of a stilling of what used to be called the American spirit. I find something else. Indifference. Willful ignorance.

When visiting with various friends and acquaintances recently, I was struck not so much by the dismal lack of knowledge of world events we encountered, or even by their indifference. What’s worse is I encountered people who are not only ignorant of what is happening in their own country, but are hostile to even discussing or learning about national or world affairs. For example, I was remonstrated for even bringing up Iraq as though I’d uttered some vulgarity. That I had callously invaded their most personal thoughts. I assure you, such was not our intention or desire.

And what causes me so much disquiet is considering this attitude of indifference in the context of a famous quote by Thomas Jefferson — a man for whom I have great respect.

“Those who expect to be both ignorant and free, expect what never was and never will be.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Happily, I also did find some folks who were very eager to discuss world events. I’m not sure I added a lot to the inventory of knowledge, but it somehow made me feel better to be in the company of people who care. Even an honest, civilized disagreement is better than being met with silent voices and blank stares. For that brief time I was part of a community — people engaged in a common project who were eager to draw on each others’ thoughts as a means of furthering our progress in that common project.

I wonder what causes a desire to be divorced from society’s ongoing discourse?  I’ve chosen not to attempt to answer that question as such possibilities that run through my mind could be classified a distinctly uncharitable. And I’m just not going there tonight.

What concerns me the most is that if Mr. Jefferson is correct, we could be in more trouble than I thought.

I’m under no “Middle School Civics Class” delusions. I realize that much of what is spoon-fed to students about how the political and legislative processes work is more wishful thinking than factual. The real world of politics is utterly divorced from the propaganda the kids are fed. Most figure that out pretty quickly. Where they go with that realization is of prime importance.

Perhaps it’s because neither compulsory military service nor confiscatory taxation are parts of young people’s lives that they acquire a certain indifference to national and world affairs.

But for adults, taxation, military adventures, and economic policies do impact them profoundly and do affect their ability to enjoy the results of their labors. And I predict that those government policies and their results will impact all of us even more in the years ahead. Especially those who are nearing retirement. That retirement will be repealed for many Americans I consider to be an established fact.  I don’t expect that to go over well.

So I’ll classify this brief essay as a plea for engagement in society’s ongoing discourse. Not some wild plunge into political campaigns — I’d never suggest people do things I would never consider. Just to be aware of what’s going on and to be prepared to think about and discuss those events.

Anyway, don’t you want to know why things are happening to you that you might better formulate your own actions the better to improve your lives? I truly hope so. And to the degree that you pursue that enlightenment, I wish you the very best and all the happiness in the world.

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The US Government Hoarding Disorder

We’re all familiar with those poor souls who are plagued with what’s called a hording disorder. You’ve seen them on television specials, perhaps. Or maybe you live with one.  Their entire houses are often filled with junk that is remarkable in its volume and uselessness. And sometimes it gets so severe that it’s hard for family members to find any space even to live. I believe its one manifestation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD.

I have some friends who’ve had to deal with this illness, and it can have disastrous consequences.  The wife/mother kept so much junk that whole areas of the garage and basement not to mention closets were inaccessible.  Her case was relatively mild in that they did have rooms with enough free space that family members could have a bed and get some sleep.  But not much else.

The problem resolved itself, at least temporarily, when the house finally caught fire, effectively cleaning out her stash of junk.  Fortunately, no one was injured.  All in all it was a small mercy.  Insurance to the rescue.  However it remains to be seen if the house, now reconstructed, will once again get filled with useless items.  Unless her problem has been dealt with, the answer is probably yes.

It occurs to me that our federal government has the same problem.  Only instead of hoarding junk it hoards programs and departments that have no relevancy to current needs.  Unlike a room full of junk at home, maintaining useless programs and departments have a real financial cost.

The excuses are so similar.  “Well, it might come in useful someday,” would be one.  “You never know when we’ll need that and it would be awful to be without it,” is another.  Examples?

One would be the Selective Service System.  Right now a debate is raging as to whether the nation should register women as well as men.  What about a debate as to whether we still need an agency that has had nothing to do since the early 1970’s?  Do we really think a military situation is going to erupt that will require the rapid infusion of new draftees?  Especially when such a large portion of top military brass wants nothing to do with conscripts but vastly prefers volunteers?

I just happened to choose Selective Service since it’s in the news.  You can choose the programs and agencies you wish for further examples of Government Hoarding Disorder.  In fact, you should do that.  Not only you, but so should your friends and acquaintances.  Suggest it to them.

Why?  Simple.  People commonly have their “special programs” that they don’t think the nation can do without.  And if citizens have those preferences, you can guarantee that legislators, not to mention those leading those government agencies and programs, feel even stronger.

Assuming elected leadership agrees and wishes to satiate its limitless desire for growing the government, Government Hoarding Disorder will be yet one more contributor to national bankruptcy.

Of all the presidents who served within the collective memories of those living in the US today, Ronald Reagan is probably remembered as the foremost exponent of limiting the size of government.  In fact, in his campaign against incumbent Jimmy Carter, candidate Reagan criticized the Department of Energy as useless.  Yet, somehow, that department continues today.

If Reagan was unwilling or unable to get rid of a department he deemed useless, what’s the chance of one of the current contenders for the office of president doing so?  Nil.

Hence it may well be that our case of Government Hoarding Disorder will continue until our national financial house burns down.

By the way, who is it who said that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program?

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Yellen, Putin, and Financial Insolvency

December 19, 2015

So, Yellen & Team targeted the Fed Funds rate a quarter-point higher. Got a lot of press. The amusing part of it all is that there are any people left who think that the Fed has any credibility or knows what it’s doing.

But the big story to me was the meeting Kerry had with the Russians. He comes out of the meeting and declares one more of Obama’s “red lines” gone. Apparently now Mr. Assad no longer needs to go – Obama has “seen the light?” Now we are in substantial agreement with the Russians concerning Syria’s and Assad’s future – that it is to be left to the Syrians. The amusing part of it all is that there are any people left who think that Obama has any credibility or knows what he’s doing.

Well, with regard to money and banking, here’s a guy who did know what he was doing – the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. He tells us, “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Human Action, Chapter XX: Interest, Credit Expansion, The Trade Cycle.

A nation cannot continue to expand credit forever to cover deficits as Mises tells us. Given that the US continues to expand its debt via legislation such as that passed under the leadership of Mr. Ryan with help from his partner Mrs. Pelosi, it looks like we are opting for a “final and total catastrophe of the currency system” as opposed to a more gradual adjustment from the voluntary abandonment of credit expansion – something our leaders have proven unwilling to do.

And I have to wonder if perhaps the Russians just explained the economic facts of life to Mr. Kerry. To wit, that if we want to screw with Russia and China that they will initiate actions that will bring the US economy to its knees. If I were the Russians or the Chinese and were fed up with the US, I would use the economic leverage the US government has given them via unprecedented US debt levels. Just speculation on my part.

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Merkel Makes Sense, for Once. Obama Makes Us Nervous.

It doesn’t take much effort these days to find crises in the world. In fact, it takes no effort at all. Just off the top of my head I could come up with several catastrophes already in progress or ready to blow. However, I’m  going to restrain my natural tendency or compulsion to start making another depressing list and get to the point.  I only wish the US government would restrain its compulsion to get involved in the majority of those crises.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel just took a swipe at Washington’s continuous efforts to achieve world hegemony with the statement, “Even a superpower can’t solve all of the problems alone anymore.” Correct. I  might almost find myself respecting her. And to further endear her to me, she made a list. A list of places that US government interference is neither needed nor wanted. Bravo! The only thing I can think of that would have improved her statement is to modify it to say that not only can a superpower not solve all the world’s problems, but that it should not even try.

The only argument I would have with Mrs. Merkel is that her list is way too short. I find it almost impossible to make an exhaustive list of places and conflicts in which Washington has no business involving itself. Yet I’ve got a hunch that list will eventually be made — if nowhere other than in the history books detailing Washington’s foreign policy failures.

I’ve got no particular love for Germany over, say, New Zealand or Canada. And Mrs. Merkel is a politician which automatically puts her on my list of potentially dangerous people. But, being the fair-minded soul that I am, I will admit when I agree with a politician, as painful as that is for me.

On the other side of the ocean from Germany, I find another politician babbling away, making a complete jackass of himself. Yes, sadly, it’s our own Mr. Obama. He’s still reading from the same playbook as his predecessor, Mr. Bush. While Merkel is making some sense, Obama just nauseates me with this zinger, “The United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.” Ugh. An open door to an interventionist foreign policy without any limits. Hubris gone wild. And an acceleration of our drive to utter financial ruin. And the man might actually get us into a real war with thinking like that.

No, Mr. Obama, the US government is not indispensable. And it is only someone consumed with arrogance who would stand up and make such an asinine comment. And if you’ve made the jump from the idea of indispensability to thinking that the government you lead is also virtually omnipotent in world affairs, then things just got really dangerous. Repeat after me, “We do not need nor want another war.”

Mrs. Merkel, would you please telephone Mr. Obama and ask him to take another vacation? If we can find a way to get the poor man to do absolutely nothing for the next couple of years, it would be a big help. And not just for America.

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A Hometown Sample of a World Gone Nuts

I try to write to you every few days. It’s almost like therapy for me. Which is strange because the things I cover are seldom the sort of topics that make for good bedtime stories. I stare face-to-face with a world gone nuts. Not that the world hasn’t gone berserk before. In fact, it’s hard to find an extended period of peace and tranquility in the history of this species.

I last wrote to you after attending a beautiful wedding. It is important to have encouraging things happening in your life. If you focus on the places where the world is coming unhinged and nothing else, your emotional equanimity will be in serious jeopardy. Even if you restrict your focus only on what might be called the “major” hot-spots without a reprieve, you’ll still be headed for mental problems.

I have been especially troubled these past few days over the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri. In saying that I’m not just jumping on the media bandwagon, allowing myself to be drawn to the crisis of the day. I’m not writing about it because it’s the thing to do.

See, Ferguson is my hometown. I grew up there in the 50’s and 60’s and it was a great place. I wish we could use the present tense in that previous sentence because I have so many fond memories of the place. And I wish that the current citizens of that once typical middle-class town could have fond memories, too.  Hopefully they will.

Of course, one shooting does not change the character of a city. But the riots that followed it showed humanity at its worst — and I’m really saddened that my hometown should be the focus of that despicable display.

No doubt in the weeks to come the sociologists, social workers, psychologists and others with similar qualifications will have much to say about this. Many of them will be well worth listening to. And I plan to do so.

No doubt in the weeks to come many politicians will also have much to say about these tragic events in our hometown. If you’ve read much of my material you’ll not be surprised when I say that I don’t expect much helpful from that crowd. I remain steadfastly convinced that what they say will have everything to do about reelection and nothing to do with helping the people of Ferguson recover and find a better way.

I’ll not comment on the appropriateness of the response of the police to all of this. Thankfully, law enforcement is not a career choice I made so I am far from an expert in such matters. That said however, I am deeply troubled by the presence of armored personnel carriers on the streets of American cities, whether needed or not. With protestors throwing rocks and police throwing tear gas grenades the place is starting to look like some middle-eastern cities I could mention. And the resemblance is unpleasant.

There is much happening elsewhere in the world that will impact our lives far more than what’s happening in Ferguson. The snag is that those crises are happening “over there” allowing us to be a bit more detached, while Ferguson landed right in our laps. On a much smaller scale to be sure, but still way too close to home.

I hope that by the next time I write to you the unrest in Ferguson will have settled down and I can focus on events that will have a profound and lasting effect on us. At least we can then be troubled by events occurring half a world away. Amazing, isn’t it? Events on the other side of the globe have more of an impact on our lives than what’s happening in our own hometowns. Maybe that’s for the best?

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Do Syria and Iraq Still Exist?

It’s time to peer outside our borders once again and see what the winds of political change have wrought. In doing so, I’ll take a look at two victims of U.S. Government assistance, Syria and Iraq. Actually, I’m not sure that last sentence makes sense. By that I mean, do those two nations really exist anymore?

What lies within the boundaries of what is labeled “Iraq” on a map is an ungovernable menagerie of tribes and religious sects that were kludged together by European powers after World War I.  I mean no insult to any of those people groups stuck in the make-believe country of Iraq. It’s just that they were forced into a political entity created by those outside their cultures. So much for “with the consent of the governed” and that sort of stuff. Not surprisingly, they object to the whole western arrangement. And it has required essentially tyrannical leadership to keep the whole thing from blowing to pieces.

Being unstable in design, Iraq has been the target of continuous interventions by western powers. The U.S. Government, unstable in its thinking, can’t resist jumping in where it doesn’t belong. Especially where oil is involved. Whatever the motivation, the results have been uniformly awful — and not just for the Iraqis. Our friend, the Law of Unintended Consequences, continues to operate outside of Washington’s control. Regardless of the lives, money, and munitions that the U.S. Government has poured into Iraq over the decades, the results can hardly be called positive. A better word would be “tragedy”.

The Middle-East is a rough neighborhood. Where there is a power vacuum, someone or some entity is going to fill that vacuum. When Washington booted out Saddam it also substantially weakened the Iraqi defenses. That this ISIS group has moved in is not a surprise at all. What has surprised me is the delay. What have they been waiting for?

The central government in Baghdad is that in name only as it does not command the loyalty of the peoples living within the borders of Iraq. As the Iraqi government tries to beat back ISIS while circling the wagons, nations are reducing their embassy staffs and getting out of Dodge.

Without a functioning government, the term “Iraq” refers only to a region of land. It does not refer to a nation. Hence it is with great sadness that, as I consider the sacrifices that U.S. service men and women have made in that region, I conclude that Iraq is a country no more. And hence those sacrifices and the billions or trillions of dollars spent in that region have been a tragic waste. That Washington intransigently refuses to acknowledge that fact is a measure of how divorced that leadership is from reality.

The situation in Syria is similar. While Washington’s involvement there has been of a different form and degree, that nation might well be considered to exist no more. Part of Syria is occupied by hostile forces. Call it a civil war if you like. Call it uprisings sponsored by western governments. But call it a real country is getting difficult.

Whenever I suffer through the agony of listening to buffoons such as Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama, I keep being drawn to a series of names. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan. Name one — just one — that is better off for Washington’s involvement.

If forced to compare the objectives as stated by the above mentioned two gentlemen and similar officials with results on the ground, one would have to conclude that all of the U.S. Government’s foreign operations have been failures.

For example, we were told by Mr. Obama that Mr. Assad had to leave as president of Syria. No doubt Washington and friends stirred up various groups a bit to help things along. But last I checked, he’s still there. The west wanted Assad gone and new leadership in Syria. The result is the opposite — Syria is gone and Assad is still governing something while other groups take over parts of what was Syria. Nice work, huh?

And what about all those “red lines” concerning Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program? Silence. Well, perhaps that’s for the best.

I’m sorry to be so negative, but real people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake here. Not the least of which are ours. Now Washington has turned its attention to Ukraine. This might just be its undoing. See, there’s this next door neighbor to Ukraine called Russia. And unlike the other poor victims of U.S. Government beneficence, it has a nuclear weapons program. And unlike America, Russia has a leader with overwhelming support of his people.

I don’t purport to be able to see into Mr. Putin’s mind. Be we can watch his actions. And listen to what he says. I’m not predicting nuclear war. But we have heard Mr. Putin and his staff speak of destroying the U.S. dollar as a means of bankrupting Washington so it can no longer afford to inject itself into other countries’ affairs. And I believe he means to do it. And he’s got help from other nations such as China and Brazil that share Russia’s goals regarding the dollar.

I heard that Mr. Kerry was dispatched to India in an effort to get that nation on-board with Washington’s financial and geopolitical interests. I understand Mr. Kerry can chalk that trip up to his considerable string of failures. I’m not surprised. India is lining up with the rest of the BRICS. Go home, John.

Mr. Putin and other like-minded leaders are already working on plans to end the “unipolar” world, a euphemism for the U.S. Government’s global hegemony that it has enjoyed since the conclusion of World War II. Knocking the dollar off its perch will do it.

I’m going to continue to watch the USDX as a measure of the health of the dollar — and conversely the progress of Mr. Putin and his associates. I expect to see some v0latility – it won’t go straight down and may have some substantial rallies.  But it’s fate is sealed due, in large part, to dereliction on the part of US fiscal and monetary policies.

Just watch the US dollar and you’ll know a lot more about the direction of international political machinations than you will by listening to the propaganda spewed out by jackass politicians and their subservient media lapdogs.

See how easy all this is?

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US Government Offers Limited Intelligence

Let’s do a quick review of some of the conflicts in progress, brought to you by our misguided leaders.

  • Apparently for all the rockets Hamas has fired into Israel, they must not be too short on funds. Especially since it’s reported they are buying missiles and high tech gear from North Korea. See, I was wondering what that little guy in North Korea has been up to, and now we know. Unsatisfied with just arming himself so he can blow the Korean peninsula, Japan, or who knows where else to smithereens, he’s expanding his weapons business to other unstable parts of the world.
  • There was hope of an extension of the temporary cease-fire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. But those hopes have been blown to smithereens as well. Along with more of Hamas’ infamous tunnels. Another swing and a miss for Mr. Kerry. I recommend poor John emulate his boss and take more vacations. Like I’ve said before, Washington is big on hubris. And the idea that the US government can fix the Middle East is a terrific example. I profoundly question the intelligence of any US incursions into the Middle East.
  • President Obama has approved limited intelligence. Well, that’s not how the story reads, but when I saw those two words together, “limited intelligence”, I briefly thought that Washington and/or the mainstream press had a rare moment of truth. Actually it’s worse. Mr. Obama has authorized the sharing of a limited amount of intelligence information with Ukraine so they can blow the so-called rebels to pieces. He’s considering sharing even more intelligence so the Ukrainian military can better targets the insurgents. This is seen as a way of propping up Ukraine and sending a message to Mr. Putin. With these continuing attempts to provoke Mr. Putin, I wonder what he might eventually send back. Of course, there’s no reason for Washington to be propping up Ukraine or poking sticks at Putin. But, as noted, Washington does have a surplus of limited intelligence they wish to share. No doubt about that.
  • Americans are getting poorer, so says that bastion of the establishment media, The New York Times. The Times claims, “The reasons for these declines are complex and controversial.” Now there’s some fine journalism. Give the stats and then bail out of any analysis because things are complex and controversial. Then again, maybe it’s okay – just another case of “limited intelligence”. Oh, and the decline in the wealth of Americans is worse than the article says because the Times uses the highly inaccurate inflation figures generated by the limited intelligence, US government bean-counters.
  • I’ve also heard that all of Washington’s efforts in Libya have resulted in the evacuation of the US embassy there. I haven’t checked up on Syria, Chicago, or any number of other trouble spots today, so I’ll just let those ride for now so I can get on with other responsibilities.

Dear friend, I feel I’ve accomplished my purposes this evening. I’ve taken a snap shot of world hot spots, examined governmental limited intelligence, and demonstrated how government limited intelligence has impacted the US economy,

I hope I’ve made your visit to this site worth your while.

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Brazil & Ukraine: Signs of the Declining Power of Washington

Here I was, all warmed up to write on the economy and what those bilious blockheads in Washington are doing to us now. How they are destroying our currency, our livelihoods, our retirement dreams – and that’s not all. However delightful that project sounded, I found myself interrupted in my economic cogitations by the continuing story of Ukraine.

I chose the word “story” very carefully. Words like “crisis” get thrown around way too much. Sort of like the little boy who cried “wolf” one time too many. I’m not sure the situation in Ukraine is a real live crisis, a make-believe crisis, or just another run-of-the-mill conflict where politicians with bloated egos are trying to push each other around. Whatever the case, I’ve been ineluctably drawn from economics to the conflict in Ukraine. (“Conflict” is another good word for us to use. There’s always some conflict in progress wherever I look so I’m safe using it to describe most any spot on the planet.)

Let’s take inventory of what’s swirling around the media regarding Ukraine:

  • Tragically, an airliner was shot down over Ukraine killing around 300 people. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either the work of Ukrainians trying to make the Russians look bad, the Russian rebels in Ukraine trying to make the Ukrainian government look bad, the Russian government trying to make the Ukrainian government look bad, the CIA trying to make everyone look bad, or somebody just shooting the thing down by accident and trying not to make themselves bad.
  • Stories are whirling around of the distribution of Russian government flyers to those in Russia near the border with Ukraine advising them of how to prepare for an evacuation. If true, that’s interesting timing. Why now?
  • With at least 173 Dutch citizens on the plane, Mr. Obama dropped by the Dutch embassy in Washington to pledge support of an investigation and to sign a sympathy book. I can’t take issue with Washington offering its condolences, but the comment about supporting an investigation sounds ominous. Could it be that Washington intends to manipulate the investigation in such a way as to further its idiotic provocations of Russia?
  • Confirming my fears that the US government will convert this tragedy into an opportunity to poke Moscow with a stick, is a story in The Washington Post, one of my favorite establishment mouthpieces. The Post tells us to expect perhaps insurmountable problems in the investigation of this crime and in prosecuting any suspects if they can be found. We learn from our friends at the Post that, “Despite mounting evidence that Russian-backed separatists downed a commercial aircraft over Ukraine last week, Western diplomats and law enforcement officials face significant obstacles prosecuting the culprits, according to current and former U.S. officials.”
  • The Post’s article continues by describing what those obstacles are, how Washington will be involved, and how the investigation will probably be futile in the sense that those responsible will probably never be identified.

I’m not pro-Russia. I’m not anti-Russia. While I am saddened by the loss of life, the death of one American on a plane that was never in our airspace and that crashed thousands of miles from the US is not a matter into which Washington should inject itself. Clearly neither the US government nor America were the targets of this tragedy.

But inject itself it must. The miscreants in Washington can’t help themselves. Russia has apparently become an enemy, Ukraine a pal, and Washington will not miss this opportunity for meddling.

The snag in all of this which apparently is lost on Washington is the fact that Russia is not impotent. Forces are gathering internationally to strike at America’s economy when they believe the time is right. Part of those forces is spelled BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Various leaders of those nations have even come right out and stated their goal of dethroning Washington.

While the masses were focused on the World Cup, a far more ominous event for the US government’s economic hegemony occurred in Brazil – the creation of the BRICS development bank and a $100 billion reserve fund. While it is heralded as a “compliment” to existing international financial structures, when one blows away the smoke the purpose is clear – to replace the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. To move power from the West to the East, a process that has been underway for some time.

I could and will write more on this as this story is not going away soon, but I have reached my capacity for this evening. And I happily note that I did accomplish what I originally set out to do – write to you on economics. And here I thought I had gotten pulled off task by discussing what’s happening in Ukraine.

Maybe it is all about the money after all?

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The Land of Perpetual Conflict

As I consider what I’d like to share with you this Saturday night I find ourselves torn in several directions. Tonight I’ve decided to look at the Middle East. To be specific, the latest spat between the Israeli government and Hamas.

I watch with a sense of frustration and horror at the continuing hostility in the Middle-East as Israel and various Arab groups have at it again. Trying to find something good in all of that seems impossible, yet I might have just done so. I do not see any US politicians or bureaucrats over there meddling in the affairs of those peoples and nations, yet. That said, I am distressed to see that Mr. Obama has made some sort of offer to help out. Hopefully Mr. Netanyahu will be wise enough to decline that offer.

It’s not that I’m opposed to peace — I’m all for it. I just have precious little confidence in the ability of Western leaders to foster it, especially in cultures vastly different from ours. Didn’t the Obama administration try to negotiate a peace between Israel and Hamas in 2012? And here they are, back at it.

Anyway, the US is not seen as an honest, impartial broker. The Palestinians certainly don’t trust the US administration. I’m not sure the Israelis do either. Hamas is considered to be a terrorist organization by the US government, so US officials can’t really negotiate with Hamas even if they wanted to. And there seems to be considerable friction between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu. Given that set of facts, how in the world could anyone of sane mind think the US government has any chance of really helping out in negotiating peace?

Of course there’s another Western politician, Mr. Tony Blair, who is some kind of special envoy from somewhere to the Middle East. I wonder what his job is supposed to be? In any event, he appears to be missing. I can be thankful for small mercies. Maybe he’s not as big of a blockhead as I’ve thought, and realizes he can do no good there. Or maybe it’s just self-interest – not wanting to jump into the mess and get tarred with the inevitable failure. My suggestion? Tony, take a nice long vacation somewhere.

Did you ever notice how many of the problems in the Middle East can be traced back to Western imperialism? Or at least Western meddling? I  recently wrote on the history and problems experienced by the people of Iraq. That’s not the only place where Western nations or institutions carved things up. Many of the borders of nations in the Middle East were created by Western powers over the past 100 years. This means that many of the borders are artificial and ignore cultural, tribal, and religious differences. And that yields just what we find. Continuous conflicts.

The modern State of Israel came into existence in 1948 when World Zionist Organization head David Ben-Gurion made his famous declaration of the establishment of the Jewish state. That followed the recommendation in 1947 by the United Nations General Assembly of the implementation of a partition plan for Palestine. This, as the British Mandate established by the League of Nations terminated. The Arabs, unimpressed with this arrangement, immediately went to war with Israel. The Arabs lost. Badly. Almost 70 years and several wars later the place is still in turmoil.

Why should the US stay out of the Israel-Palestine conflict? There are a number of reasons, but I’ll focus on just this one. The US government clearly favors one side over the other. From financial and military support, to the use of its veto in the United Nations Security Council, the US leadership cannot in any sense be seen to be impartial. It has forfeited any pretense of being unbiased.

The United States has much to offer the world — trade in technology, agriculture, advanced medical discoveries, education, and far more. Its humanitarian organizations can do magnificent work worldwide. I could go on. But fixing other nations’ political problems is not an area in which the US government has had undiluted success. We cannot even fix our own. “Physician, heal thyself”, comes to mind.

And I’m not so sure all of our politicians are operating from the most pure motives. Could it be that the so called desire to help or peacemaking efforts might just be a way for said politicians to try to control other countries under the guise of peacemaking?

Say it isn’t so.

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