May 14, 2012

Palling around

The recent news that J.P. Morgan lost around 2 billion "dollars" in a risky trade deal is abuzz in the media, and within moments of the news breaking anti-capitalists were already sounding the horn for more regulation.  This is likely a Trojan Horse which will only serve the well connected and crush those who don't do things like blow $2 billion on a trade.

As Bob Wenzel points out:

"In the wake of the JPMorgan loss, government officials will babble on about new regulations that will be needed to be put in place to stop banks from doing such trading. But these new regulations will benefit the politically connected at the expense of conservative banks, who do traditional banking. The connected, like Jamie Dimon, will gain even further advantages and opportunities to blow up even more money."  

Indeed, J.P. Morgan will "get by with a little help from their friends."  Chairman Jamie Dimon describes his view of the relationship here:

"In the meantime, the rest of us should hold hands, get together, collaborate, business and government together, to fix the problem.  It's going to be very hard for government to do this on its own.  And business can't do it without collaborating with the government."

With all this palling around, there will be an incentive to take unnatural risks with the availability of cheap loans and implicit guarantees in the case of a failure, and regulations will likely favor (and be written by) the big players.  Bob Wenzel again:

On an even more important note, one has to ask why there aren't any lines outside JPMorgan Chase, since clearly the bank allows blithering econometric modelers to run naked through the bank, with the ability to put billions of depositor/bank money at risk.

The answer is moral hazard. JPMorgan depositors know that the FDIC will back them up, even if there are even greater toxic trading bombs that could go off at the bank .

The FDIC, by backing these firms, serves to prop-up institutions that have made mistakes, and permit them to escape failure unscathed.  The effect of this action on the economy is multiplicative.  The firm itself now knows it will not be punished, stimulating it toward risky behavior in the future (moral hazard).  Also, the firm continues to draw investment- and at a much higher level than if it were allowed to fail.  This diluted and skewed pool of resources mean fewer investors are available for competing firms.  These effects are worse for society in the grand scheme than the ludicrous bill the taxpayers are stuck with in the case of a failure, for the insolvent firms are allowed to continue- promising more, but greater pain (due to an inflated currency) as the financial "bridges to nowhere" carry on.  Thus, too big to fail is a systemic problem that lies at the feet of the FDIC.

Because regulations merely tweak the current system and ignore the moral hazard, the fundamental problems of our economy can never be resolved.  Unless we address the special relationship these firms have with regulators and the government itself, we will only see more regulation designed to crush competition.  Would you lose $2 billion to make $10 billion over a period of time, as your competitors are forced under water by special regulations that were put in place for your "mistake?"  Perhaps this is why depositors are not running away...

The lesson here is that the last century of government intervention and central economic planning has been a dismal failure and is doomed to more of the same.  But, disconnecting government (and, of course, quasi-government institutions) from the financial market is not part of the paradigm our desperate overlords have in mind.  Quoting Edwin Vierra:

"They (the Fed) cannot face the consequences of a depression- can you imagine what a 1930's style depression in this country would be like?  That's what they don't want to have happen, and the one tool that they have that they think can prevent that in the short term is what?  Quantitative easing- inflation, generating money, generating paper currency, bills of credit- well, bills of discredit because they are not going to be paid.  We keep generating this stuff and we hope something will happen.  We are playing for time- financially.  But I think it was Machiavelli that said that's a fallacy because time brings all things- bad as well as good."

Since the current power structure chooses to perpetuate the status quo at all costs, we should consider Vierra's idea of using alternative currencies on the State level.  This way at least the States could provide a bulwark against a corrupt and dangerous system.  Crucially, this action would eliminate the relevance of moral hazard, and, at least, provides a working alternative to a crumbling "dollar":

"...The only solution here, I think, is to come up with an alternative currency- and a lot of people have proposed exactly how to do this.  This isn't something that's difficult, on the shelf technology, we could set this thing up in 30-60 days after the statute is passed- an alternative sound currency based on silver and gold.  Start using that in the marketplace, start transitioning the governments into using it for purposes of taxation and spending, and let the banks figure out how to solve their own problems."  -- Edwin Vierra

May 8, 2012

Willard Worried

In this post on the blog, your author is included with some analysis...

May 4, 2012

The Narrative

Listening to NPR a few weeks ago, I made an important realization about the media, and it's (dis)function in providing "the narrative" we revolve our lives around.  The story was that Rick Santorum had dropped out of the presidential race, leaving the republican nomination to Mitt Romney.*  Some examples: hereherehere, and here.  Of course, since there were still two other candidates competing for that prize, one wonders how the news media can make such a statement.

Any significant event is corralled by the news media into an acceptable story for consumption of the American mind.  Or, if needed, an event (or significant portions of the event) can be ignored or under-reported.  In this way, the media is attempting to frame a certain worldview that is sympathetic or even perpetuous of the power of the State.  The official narrative for this presidential race is now that the candidates will be Romney and Obama.

Enjoy your "choice," America!

Neither Romney or Obama will fundamentally challenge the status quo, and are interchangeable.  Indeed, this is a choice between Worse and Worser.  For those of us who would rather avoid this Titanical game of musical chairs, and instead would like a candidate who offers significant change of course, it would be preposterous to consider either of them.  The role of the news media is to create a narrative that achieves a facade of legitimacy whilst ushering in the chosen winner of the contest, and to exclude any stories that may suggest another outcome.

Moving Beyond...

Despite many scholars who have written books, lectured, and even made (limited) media appearances on moving beyond the State, this possibility is never included as part of the narrative.  However-- just as major media networks have become almost fully intermarried into a propaganda mouthpiece of the ruling class-- documentary films, websites, podcasts, and various other conduits have emerged (mostly on the internet) to fill the void for those who crave more, and have provided a nice alternative source of information.  It seems that every action, indeed, causes and equal and opposite reaction.


One benefit of the primitive status of the internet is that this venue makes it much more difficult (though not impossible) for you to be intellectually swindled, as it is lacks highly trained teleprompter readers who are beautiful, exquisitely dressed, and professional- telling you how it is.  Contrarily, internet outlets are traditionally seen as unprofessional- with low sound and video quality.  Sometimes, you have to really want the information to sit through an exceedingly inadequate presentation.

However, this is changing as technology advances and becomes more affordable, and as the market for information continues to slide from TV to the internet.  Now, as people are tuning out cable and supporting emerging outlets for information, winners are being chosen- and with their success, they are able to invest in more capital (video and audio equipment) as well as labor (higher quality and/or quantity of staff).  This synergy of interest in the product and professionalism in packaging has led to the internet being the choice of the upcoming generation.

Another advantage the internet has over the traditional media is the ability to link to original sources.  This is an important check on those who would like to take a story out of context.  It is possible, in the comments section, to correct a fact or opinion and reach at least some folks (like myself) who like to see differing viewpoints on a particular subject.  Also, you are able to link to your blog there- perhaps a whole post can be devoted to providing a factual account of the issue at hand.

Clearly, the ability to bring up a document without having the entire room filled with books and magazines, let alone having to remember exactly which issue of which publication it was found in, etc. is an unappreciated example of progress.  The ability to instantly upload and download information spells disaster for those who would want to snuff out particular stories- we are now much less information "impaired."  Although "those who would want to" are not above it!

It is also nice to be able to read a story about something that piques your interest, and be able to find out more details by simply clicking a link.  The internet is an easy place for a person to find many different angles on a particular subject, perhaps even stumbling on opinions that are outside of Tom Wood's Joe Biden/Mitt Romney Box of Allowed Political Dogma.  As the dinosaur media loses it's traditional audience to old age, and the current crop to irrelevancy,  the narrative- which is the fancy wrapping paper on the box of permitted opinion- will be crushed and burned with it.  This process of intellectual liberation, already in progress, is a great benefit to humanity.

*Update 5/7:

I found a map of the delegates so far, and it would appear the media has, indeed, created a narrative that is not based in reality:

Link to map

May 3, 2012

The CIA as The State

In this interview, Peter Janney talks to Lew Rockwell about his book: Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision of World Peace.  Peter's book details how Mary Pinochet Meyer, a pacifist, had a great influence on Kennedy as he gained the Presidency.  The book also details the cover-up of her assassination, as well as the characters involved in that plot.

Janney contends that Kennedy's philosophy of pacifism was antithetical to the CIA's vision of world dominance, and because of JFK's threat to "shatter the agency into a thousand pieces," the president had to be assassinated to protect the country from a threat they felt he didn't understand or take seriously enough.  This coup de tat represented a fundamental shift in governance.  Most interestingly, Janney paints a picture of a CIA with ever expanding influence, to the point where they have unilateral control on society:


"Of course, no one knew how about bad it was until Watergate.  It was really at the time of the Watergate era that people began to wake up and realize, 'My god, the CIA has been acting unilaterally, as if it was it's own country.  There aren't any checks and balances here.  They lie all the time to us in terms of any raining in on the part of congress.'  And so, all the sudden, after Watergate, it became very fashionable to, in a sense, disassociate oneself from the CIA."

Later, Rockwell asked, "Is the CIA much worse today?  Is the American government in a sense the U.S. of the CIA?..."


"This is a huge conflict, because every nation state has the right to collect intelligence as a way to protect itself.  And so, you have to step back and look clearly at what the limits of that can be.  If you are going to get into the arena where state sponsored murder is okay, then I think you've crossed the line where there is no more democracy.*  There's basically a plutocracy or an oligarchy that wants to stay in control by any means necessary."

As "National Security" gained increasing prominence in the role of foreign and domestic policy, we began to see the results in the form of CIA assassinations and coups worldwide,  This control quickly turned inward, begetting illegal wiretapping and spying on citizens at home, and assassinations of politicians and activist leaders domestically.  All of these despicable actions were performed on a unilateral basis, with no authority or oversight.  Any part of government is subject to corruption- and the National Security apparatus acted in the interests of a power oligarchy hell-bent on domination of the world at any cost.

Confronting this reality is both difficult and prescient- as we have watched the liberties we have cherished dissolve in the post-9/11 atmosphere.  The National Security State, where you are guilty until proven innocent and dissent is viewed as dangerous, is the ultimate end for those who would like total control over society.  Clearly, dismantling this apparatus is crucial to restoring liberty and rule of law in society.

*  I am not sure why he uses the word "democracy" here.  We were founded as a republic, but many progressives desire democracy- and use the word to describe our political order.  That said, I would agree that in the last century we have regressed to more of a democracy.  This is unfortunate, as the following video shows, and the results are the predicable outcome of oligarchy that Janney describes above:

Apr 9, 2012

Primal Prepping

In a recent interview with Lisa Bedford (Survival Mom), Lew Rockwell posed a question about prepping for those who choose a primal lifestyle.  There is, indeed, a perception that building a reserve of storable food and primalism must be mutually exclusive.  Fortunately, there are many options available for those who want to thrive in any scenario, sans cream of wheat.

When considering dry food to store, one can come up with quite a few choices:

Dried Mushrooms
Kale Chips (dehydrated kale)
Basically any dehydrated veggies
Canned Fish/Seafood (choose wisely- low mercury, high omega-3)
Seeds (including chia and/or hemp)
Oils (especially coconut and olive)
Ghee (clarified butter)
Pre-cooked Bacon (nitrate-free)

When shopping for these items, pay attention especially to packaging- choose products with solid color containers, as light tends to diminish the shelf life of a product.  Look for the newest product by examining all of the "sell by" dates on the back of the package.  Most importantly, make these items a part of your everyday regimen.  This will allow you to keep rotating in fresh product, with the added benefit of avoiding the experience of shock as you start realizing you are going to be eating an MRE for dinner tonight- and many nights to come...You will, instead, be snacking!

As for fresh food, a garden is a fun, low-cost insurance policy against the ultimate deal-breaker: hunger.  Another option is container gardening.  Especially in an urban scenario, one may find it handy for valuable food to be somewhat portable.

Also, what could be more primal than hunting and fishing?  Wild game is one of the most rewarding and healthy choices for the human body- a body that will desperately need the "fuel" it receives from such pursuits.  Getting up to speed on the techniques involved, as well as acquiring the equipment needed to achieve such ends is an obvious choice for the primal prepper.  

On this note, one has to consider the philosophical and practical merits of primal hunting and fishing tactics vs. modern methods and technologies.  While a gun is more efficient than a bow, primal tactics are more stealthy- meaning a much lower chance that other hunters will notice your kill.  Fishing is an incognito, and potentially abundant, source of wild meat.  

Foraging for wild food is another essential skill for the prepping primalist.  Setting yourself up with someone from your area who can expertly identify native wild edibles is a must, as is practice.  Uninformed choices could lead to severe illness or death, therefore hands-on knowledge is the superior choice when it comes to orienting yourself to the edible plants in your area.  Although some species are poisonous to varying degrees, a potential bounty of edible wild food exists- if you know how to identify, prepare, and store it.   Ironically, most people, driven mad with hunger, will be scurrying around within a natural buffet attempting to find something, anything, they recognize as food.  Primal foraging skills will put you ahead of the pack- potentially keeping you safe from starvation, and droves of starving lunatics!

When considering how to store all of these items, keep in mind you will need them to be within easy access, yet hidden from jealous eyes.  Mother Earth News has a nice article about building a basement root cellar, which satisfies both needs.  Dehydrating or canning fresh meat and wild foraged food can extend your harvest during plentiful times to prepare for occasions when it is impossible to hunt.

If you are forced from your home, a shallow hole in the ground covered by a rock or heavy log may have to suffice.  However, in this scenario, you are likely better served spending your calories foraging or hunting.  Primal hunting and foraging skills are best learned beforehand.  If you have to make a hasty retreat, you will be very happy you have these tools immediately at your disposal.

Thinking about the primal diet, one tends to daydream about what life must have been like for our ancient ancestors.  "Prepping"- as we call it- was the lifestyle of those who came before us.  They had to constantly provide for, at a minimum, their fundamental needs without modern "conveniences" such as supermarkets, electronic gadgets, and refrigeration.  Imagine what they would have given for something as simple as a knife!

When one considers the ultimate end to many of the scenarios we prep for, it is easy to imagine how "primal" it will actually get when simple things like power failure occur, and life for us all rapidly and dramatically changes.  For instance, what will people do when they cannot bake bread?  As a primalist, do you remember what you thought and how you felt when you imagined- gasp!- not eating grains?  

When the power goes out, people will be forced into a more primal diet by necessity- and most will not be prepared with the literal and mental primal "tools" to survive without resorting to immoral and malicious activities.  Indeed, one cannot imagine a worse place to be in a societal collapse, than in an urban area with ubiquitous panic and despair- and craving for baked goods, an underestimated threat.  By already having your body and mind tuned in to this mode of thinking- you can separate yourself above the rest, and dramatically improve your chance of survival.  The primal lifestyle is, in fact, intertwined with the prepper lifestyle.

Apr 6, 2012

Thomas Woods on War

Jeffery Tucker interviews Tom Woods

In the above interview, Tom Woods discusses his book: We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now.  The book, co-edited with Murray Pulner, is a review of anti-war writings from many different political perspectives.

From the interview:

"What I want this book to show is just that the propaganda surrounding war has been there in every one of these wars- and it's the same this point, how many times can your intelligence be insulted?- and that these things are atrocities.  Yes, the minimum wage is bad.  Tariffs are bad.  But, this is an unbelievable atrocity that goes on- on behalf of intentions that are usually very murky, and not made clear to the people.  The people are given propagandistic reasons for the war, but the fact is- this makes us callous.  This "public policy" makes us callous toward our fellow man- this makes us think of them as not even being fellow human beings.

When you argue with some of the proponents of these wars, you say, 'Look, you know, a million people died!  A million people were burned to death, with a chemical agent...what do you say to that?'  And they say, 'Hey, you know, it's war...that's war.'  And that's their argument!  They think that's an argument: 'That's war...'  So it gets back to, they utter a word.  And they think that by uttering this word, we can suspend all moral considerations- that you are a left-wing pansy if you even have moral concerns, moral qualms.  This has just gotta stop!  People gotta just stop thinking like this!"

"There is something about the human mind that just latches on to this way of thinking.  I myself was caught-up in it for a long time, until-finally-with that first Persian Gulf war...and I saw tens or hundreds of thousands of retreating Iraqi soldiers.  And, yes, they are soldiers, but they are human beings.  They have kids.  And alot of these people themselves, they're kids too.  They don't even want to be there, half of them, and they're maimed or killed- and they are retreating- or being burned alive.  And, meanwhile, we've got our yellow ribbins and our Bob Hope specials...and I just finally said, 'I don't know if I can do this anymore.  I don't know how I can celebrate and have a parade, when these people are mourning the deaths of countless people who never did anything to us, and who had nothing to do with us, who would not hurt us in any way because of the imperial ambition of some U.S. president.  You've gotta be kidding me if you are going to support that!"

I highly anticipate adding this book to my collection...

Feb 19, 2012

Thomas Woods on State Nullification

Thomas Woods speaks to Sheriff's 
Officers about state nullification

Thomas Woods (bio) recently gave a speech to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association about state nullification.  Dr. Woods is author of a recent book Nullification, which deals with this tricky subject.  I plan on posting a review when when I have finished reading it.

The video above is a short and basic introduction to the concepts involved, with the typical Woods style that I love.  He provides a window to the paradigm of many of our nation's great thinkers.  This was a very entertaining video, and interesting subject of paramount importance throughout our history.

Feb 4, 2012

Sopa/Pipa and Music

Khan Acadamy explains SOPA/PIPA

The recent squabble about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it's sister bill in the senate- Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have me thinking of an old discussion my musician friends and I would have.  In discussing the issue of pirating music, a few of us came to the conclusion that the technological revolution that we have experienced has complicated the situation in several respects.

Consider a fruit vendor:  If the vendor sells you an apple, he can no longer possess that apple to sell to another customer.  If the vendor instead wants to sell (or simply share) a music file, however, he has access to an unlimited basket of product.  Furthermore, the consumer can then copy the file, and give it away ad infinitum without degrading in any way the original or any of the copies.  Acknowledgement of this dilemma between tangible goods (apple) and intangible goods (data) requires a different approach in seeking justice.

Prior to recorded music, the only was to experience music was to be present as it occurred.  Therefore, supply was dictated primarily by your culture- what it had to offer musically, and how significant music is in cultural daily life- and not by the listener.  As recorded music (not to mention photos and video*) became prevalent, people were able to experience music on demand, and with trade and travel- music from other cultures.  This was a substantial change in the culture of music itself, begetting a fount of creativity, and a population of listeners who could capture that creativity to enjoy at their leisure.

As we have transitioned from analog to digitally recorded music, we have made another important cultural shift.   Recorded music has been transformed into data which has modified the listening experience in several ways.  With MP3 players- users can upload massive amounts of data, listening to one song from this band and two or three of that band at the touch of a button!  This is pretty far removed from simple recorded music, and especially differs from experiencing a live performance.

Another difference is the way the music is delivered itself.  In making digital music, much of the musical information is lost- an example being a cymbal crash being cut in half to reduce file size at the expense of losing some resonance at the end of the crash that most people won't miss.  In a live performance, these nuances are quite present for the experienced listener- but even the most unaware will experience the larger spectrum in a rich environment of tonal colors.

So, a recording is to a live performance as a "home movie" is to a live experience.  The result is always a copy, most times- a copy of a copy, and with the digital revolution- a modified copy of a copy!  Considering MP3s have turned the recordings into data, yet another barrier has been placed between the listener and the music itself.  Regardless of the final quality (in terms of the musical experience) of the data file, the issue at hand is who "owns" this information, which is- in reality- a computer file.

The industry proponents of SOPA/PIPA would like to cap this wellspring of information, and ration it out to only those who pay them for access to it.  It is analogous to the idea of the energy industry suppressing free energy devices- knowing that if everyone had access to unlimited amounts of free energy, a massive amount of potential profit would be lost.  Of course, the benefit to the average person would be enormous considering the money saved each month and the inestimable potential for progress as human beings (not to mention the avoidance of war, which always seems to revolve around control of resources).  At least the suppression of free energy allows producers to supply a tangible good (oil, coal, etc.).  Because the controllers are working with immaterial goods (data)- a ban on free information has no basis in reality.  Efforts to suppress information create no new goods for the world, they are merely trying to control who is allowed to make the copies!

The overarching theme of these moves to quash the desires and potentialities of humans is the use of the State apparatus- for this is the institution with a monopoly on the use of force in contemporary society.  Without the State, the covetous rulers of society would have be powerless to control (and thus, profit) from aspects of human existence that could (and therefore, should) be as free as the air we breathe.  This is another reason to reject the empowerment of the State, and return individuals as the masters of their domain.

*Note: Consider also photographs:  How many people were inspired to create based on a photograph- which encapsulated the experience of seeing something or being somewhere- who would have never created painting X or song X otherwise?

P.S.  Check out this article with Neil Young talking about the same issue...