Wednesday, December 08, 2010

More dangerous stupidity from the military top brass

Why can't they talk to the troops before making their idiotic decisions?

By signing a memo Oct. 29, 2007, James R. Clapper Jr. exposed U.S. military personnel to greater-than-necessary danger as they served their country in Afghanistan, Iraq and other hot spots around the world.

Then an Under Secretary of Defense and now our nation's Director of National Intelligence, Clapper designated the polygraph and its hand-held cousin, the Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening System, as the "only approved credibility assessment technologies" in DoD. At the same time, he sent a dangerous message to U.S. troops: "Stop using the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer."

Fortunately, some of our nation's bravest warriors sided with common sense and opted to ignore The Clapper Memo. One of those who did was, until recently, a member of the Army Special Forces whom I will call "Joe" (not his real name).

Trained in counterintelligence and as an interrogator, this former SF operator used CVSA to conduct nearly 500 interrogations of enemy combatants and third-country nationals - more than anyone in the U.S. military - while serving in Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq and regularly working 18-hour days from 2004 to 2009.

Joe agreed to speak with me on condition of anonymity about his firsthand experience with CVSA and why Department of Defense leaders are wrong to keep the technology now used by more than 1,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies out of the hands of people in uniform.

"I was still downrange when that memo came out," said Joe, who spoke with me on condition of anonymity. After learning of the memo, Joe said he went to his commander and asked one question: "You want me to stop?" His commander replied, "Hell no, don't stop! You're just not using it anymore, right?"

Despite Pentagon orders to the contrary, Joe's SF commanders wanted him to continue using CVSA for one primary reason: They knew it was far superior to PCASS when it came to dealing with various types of detainees, captured enemy combatants, third-country nationals and others who could pose threats to U.S. and allied troops in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.

"The craziest thing about this whole deal was that it became such a controversy that, for us to continue to go up there and continue to fight - to say, `Hey, we need to use this,'" - "we were ordered to stand down and not even mention the words anymore," Joe said.

Why the stand-down order? Because, according to Joe, someone in Army leadership was more willing to rely upon laboratory studies commissioned by officials and agencies with vested interests in the continued use of the polygraph instead of trusting operational research like that Joe conducted almost daily.

Much more HERE


The Perils Of Bailouts

The EU bailout of Ireland and its previous bailout for Greece, when examined closely, bore a distressing resemblance to the 2008 U.S. bailouts of Bear Stearns, AIG and Citigroup. The authorities poured more resources into assets that had been shown to be defective, without sufficiently enforcing the painful purging and liquidation that was necessary. By doing so, they reduced wealth, prolonged recession, and made the eventual collapse of the global financial system more likely.

The parallels between the EU financial crisis and the U.S. housing finance crisis are closer than they seem at first glance. In the Austrian economic terminology, both involved "mal-investment" –caused by excessively low interest rates or often artificial government subsidies–in assets and activities that later turned out to be worthless, or nearly so. Indeed, the parallel is increased by the prevalence of fraud and corruption in both cases. In the U.S. crisis, part of the mal-investment was in housing itself, through the encouragement of endless McMansion developments–houses that were not worth their cost the day they were built, and because of their poor construction quality will deteriorate exceptionally rapidly. The other part, in home mortgages, a substantial portion of which were obtained by fraud, has been extensively anatomized elsewhere, but it is by no means clear that the eventual losses on home mortgages will be any larger than those on the houses themselves.

In Europe, the areas of mal-investment varied from country to country. In Ireland, Spain and Britain, the problem was partly one of housing finance as in the United States. In Britain planning restrictions limited the creation of housing mal-investment directly, causing a housing price run-up even more extreme than in the U.S. In Ireland and Spain both housing and housing finance caused problems, with low interest rates on euro borrowing playing a similar role in those countries to the over-expansive monetary policies of Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. (The euro's critics here overstate their case in my view; while the euro was over-stimulative for much of the eurozone, foolish U.S. policy created interest rates that were too low for the entire United States, not just part of it.)

The Irish government, by taking the entire liabilities of the Irish banks on its books, created a funding problem for itself that it could have largely avoided. However in Spain and Greece the mal-investments were greater and more complex. In Spain the socialist Zapatero government subsidized "green" energy investments through energy tariffs to the point where the subsidies represented 24% of the nation's energy bills. Since the "green" energy production facilities now appear unlikely to be cost-competitive even by 2014-16, the investments brought to life by those subsidies represent mal-investment in its purest form.

In Greece, the gigantic subsidies poured into the place by its unfortunate EU partners since its accession to the community in 1981 have resulted in the grotesque overpricing of the undereducated, corrupt and idle Greek workforce. Essentially, pretty well all investment in Greece in the past decade or so has been mal-investment.

Much more HERE


Iceland in better shape than Ireland

ICELAND has managed its economic crisis better than Ireland by not rescuing its bloated bank sector with ruinous loans, economists say. The economies of the two island nations were both booming up until the middle of the last decade but completely imploded two years apart.

Iceland was first, its economy dragged down by the collapse of its three major banks in October 2008. In a similar fall from grace, Ireland imploded a few weeks ago when its state guarantee for the banks scuttled the public finances and forced Dublin to ask for a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Because Icelandic banks were disproportionately large compared to the country's economy -- their assets were once worth 11 times Iceland's total gross domestic product (GDP)-- the tiny country did not have the option of bailing out the banks and had to let them fail. "That alone has made for a very different result within the two countries," said Tryggvi Herbertsson, an economics professor at the University of Reykjavik and an aide to former prime minister Geir Haarde.

"Ireland is now over-leveraged (with debt) and their banking system continually weak. The difference in Iceland is that our banking system is clean and once the debt has been written off, we have a healthy banking system but in Ireland the system is broken," he said.

Last night, Iceland -- a volcanic island of 320,000 inhabitants -- emerged from a deep and lengthy recession, with official statistics showing 1.2 per cent economic growth in the third quarter.

According to the latest European Commission estimates, Iceland's public deficit will be at 6.3 per cent of GDP this year. That compares to a whooping 32 per cent for Ireland, 20 per cent of which can be attributed to its support for the stricken banking sector. Irish national debt will in turn soar to 100 per cent of GDP, well above Iceland's.

More HERE.

Further on in the article, Krugman eats crow


Defying the will of the people, Obama governs by regulation

Sitting presidents whose agendas are soundly rejected by voters in midterm congressional elections have two options: They can either accommodate the new political reality, as President Clinton did after 1994; or they can use bureaucratic edicts to advance their unpopular programs, as President Obama is clearly doing now.

Given the historic drubbing his party just suffered at the polls, Obama's defiant strategy may prevent a second term for the man who began his first buoyed by an outpouring of good will.

Predictably, Obama's regulatory imperialism focuses on labor and environmental issues, as Big Green activists and labor unions, especially those representing government workers, are the core of support for the Democratic president and his congressional allies.

At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, Administrator Lisa Jackson is moving forward with a massive new program to subject the entire U.S. economy to an anti-global warming regulatory straitjacket aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Obama warned Congress last year that EPA would do this if the legislature failed to enact an Obama-supported version of cap and trade. Cap and trade passed the House in 2009 but never got out of the Senate because of intense public opposition, especially in energy-rich states like West Virginia. Now Jackson is following through on Obama's threat.

At the Department of Labor, Secretary Hilda Solis wasted no time after taking office last year in gutting long-standing rules requiring unions to disclose important details about how they spend members' dues. Now, Patricia Smith, Obama's Labor Department solicitor general, is working with Solis to implement an unprecedented new enforcement directive designed to put businesses at the mercy of union bosses. The directive provides, according to the Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for aggressive use of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to compel business cooperation through "shaming" and to "engage in enterprise-wide enforcement."

The rest of the bureaucratic blitzkrieg will be carried out by Smith's eager staff of 400 labor lawyers. Nathan Mehrens, Americans for Limited Government general counsel, says their agenda includes:

» A focus on "cases against employers in priority industries."

» Plans to "litigate cases that cut across regions."

» Working to "identify and pursue test cases" to "challenge legal principles that impede worker protections; successful challenges will advance workers' rights, as will successful enunciation of new interpretations."

» Engaging "in greater use of injunctive relief."

Meanwhile, as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote in last Friday's Examiner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing the lame-duck Congress to pass his Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, a laughably misnamed measure that will force public employee unions on all local and state police, fire and emergency medical technicians. Obama supports Reid's bill, but its passage is far from assured. Nobody will be surprised if, shortly after the Reid proposal fails on Capitol Hill, Obama unveils a new regulatory gambit to achieve the same end.



Nearly half of Democrats support Fascist economics

Democratic politicians have repeatedly stressed to the public that they are not socialists and do not believe in socialism. They may want to have a few words with some of their voters, according to a poll released over the weekend by Rasmussen Reports.

In that survey of 1,000 adults, nearly half of all Democrats, 42 percent, indicated that they believe the government should "manage the economy completely."

That viewpoint is not exactly socialism—there's a different between managing and owning after all—but it's a far cry from the free market ideology that non-Democrats favored in the poll. Just under 25 percent of independents favored government completely managing the economy.

(The Rasmussen release about the poll does not mention Republican views about this but one has to assume they're very low considering that 38 of Republicans believe government should "stay out of economic decisions.")

In total, according to the poll, just 27 percent of Americans believe government should manage the conomy. Democrats would do well to note that this small number is not possible to spin into the kind of long-term majority liberal demographers insisted was coming with the election of President Obama.

That Obama's base has such extremely high (and unreal) confidence in the ability of government to command and control the economy may also explain why some Democrats are being to sour on him.



Obama's latest attack on jobs

Who Pays for Jobless Benefits?

There is no such thing as a "free" government benefit. Ask small-business owners who are footing skyrocketing bills for bottomless jobless benefits. While politicians in Washington negotiate a deal to provide welcome temporary payroll, income and estate tax relief to America's workers, struggling employers wonder how long they'll have to pay for the compassion of others -- and whether they can survive.

The Beltway deal hinges on extending federal unemployment insurance for another 13 months. This would mark the sixth time that the deadline has been extended since June 2008.

State unemployment benefits last up to 26 weeks. Bipartisan-supported Washington mandates have raised that to 99 weeks. The current proposal would raise the total to 155 weeks. The cost of the joint federal-state program is borne by employers who pay state and federal taxes on a portion of wages paid to each employee in a calendar year. (At the federal level, employers must pay 6.2 percent of the first $7,000 of income to keep the system afloat.)

The combined burden of these hidden state and federal payroll taxes has exploded during the recession as President Obama's economic recovery interventions backfire and the jobless rate remains stuck near double-digits. State unemployment insurance funds have gone broke in nearly half the states. As of April 2010, unemployment tax analyst Douglas Holmes testified before the Senate, 35 states and jurisdictions had unemployment fund-related debts worth $39.5 billion. Anti-fraud efforts to prevent scams and overpayments are woefully underfunded.

In an interminable money shuffle, these bankrupt state unemployment insurance funds are now borrowing money from the feds, whose own regular unemployment benefits account and extended benefits account are both in the red. Washington is relying on transfers from the federal general revenue fund to cover loan obligations related to all these hemorrhaging accounts.

Who pays? Dentists, tavern owners, maid services, mom-and-pop shops -- small businesses that are the backbone of the American economy. In my home state of Colorado, small and mid-size firms have been saddled with eye-popping unemployment insurance bills that have doubled, tripled and more in the past year. The businesses that have the lowest claims histories are getting punished the most to make up the jobless benefits fund deficit.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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