Trump Ends Obama Era Program to Arm Syrian Rebels

In a rare positive foreign policy move, the Trump Administration is reportedly ending the CIA policy of training, funding, and arming “moderate” Islamic groups in Syria. The policy, instituted by the Obama Administration in 2013, has been used to arm rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and by extension, against Russia in the deep state’s proxy war in Syria.

Just who are these “moderate” anti-Assad rebels fighting for peace in the middle east? None other than ISIS and al-Qaeda, of course. It should be painfully obvious that such a covert policy is destructive and counter-productive to the goal of lasting peace in the middle east.

Not to mention, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have a terrible track record when it comes to picking the lesser of two foreign evils; decades of policies that have led to blowback, death, destruction, and endless war across the globe. One only has to remember that the CIA armed, trained, and funded Osama bin Laden and other Mujahedeen “moderates” during Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980’s. The Mujahedeen, which became Al-Qaeda, responded by attempting to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six people in the process, then by carrying out the 9/11 attacks less than a decade later.

This isn’t the first attempt to end the controversial policy. Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” in the Senate and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced similar legislation in the House.

Though the move is clearly a step in the right direction i.e. a cease-fire in Syria, not everyone views the move so positively. Take the Washington Post’s first sentence in their take on the story:

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.”

Even a move towards a cease-fire in Syria must be told in the light of their desperate need to push the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.

Does Russia favor the U.S. ending a covert program that ultimately saves Russian lives? Obviously. But why wouldn’t the U.S also favor ending the program? The U.S. is purposefully arming terrorists to fight a proxy war against Russia in Syria. Without this program, the civil war there may have ended months or years ago, saving tens of thousands of lives.

There are many issues to be critical of regarding Trump’s foreign policy, this is not one of them.

Illinois Public Workers Seek “Fair Contract”, Already Highest Paid in Nation

The state of Illinois is in serious trouble. After not passing a budget for more than two years, the Democratic controlled state legislature recently pushed through a $5 billion-dollar state income tax increase, overriding the governor’s veto in the process. The increase makes Illinois’ state income tax among the highest in the nation, joining their already ridiculously high property tax rates. And all that just to pass a balanced budget, a requirement of the state constitution. This allowed the Comptroller to begin paying the over $15 billion in past due vendor payments. Interest on the past due bills alone total over $800 million.

In addition to their short-term budget crisis, the state has unfunded pension obligations of over $100 million, the highest in the nation, and recently narrowly avoided a “junk” credit rating.

It isn’t just the state’s governmental accounting woes that are a problem, either. The state’s economy is currently growing at a pace slower than even during the great depression.

In a measure sure to add insult to injury, Illinois Policy reports:

“Illinois’ biggest government-worker union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is engaged in contract negotiations with the state in an attempt to boost its salaries and benefits. As part of its negotiation tactics, AFSCME claims its “middle class” benefits are under attack. That’s why union officials are demanding up to $3 billion in salary and benefits for union members.”

Yes, you read that correctly. During the state’s worst economic growth since the great depression, less than a month after the legislature raised taxes $5 billion just to balance the budget, the largest public union in the state is demanding $3 billion in raises to salary and benefits.

Sound ridiculous? You haven’t even heard the best part yet. Public employees in the state of Illinois are already the highest paid public employees in the country. They receive Cadillac health care benefits, many of them receive free health insurance in retirement, and the average public worker gets $1.6 million out of their plan in retirement.

Moreover, Illinois Policy shows that while private sector earnings have remained flat over the past 12 years, public sector workers earnings have risen over 40%.

All this while marching and picketing with signs that read “Fair Contract.” Fair to who? Fair to the public employees or fair to the state of Illinois taxpayers?

To his credit, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed a number of reforms that would bring public employee costs more in line with private sector costs. He is being fought at every turn by a public employee union that is content to continue fleecing Illinois taxpayers, pushing an already economically decimated state to the verge of bankruptcy.

U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Controlled by 1970’s Era Computers run with 8 in. Floppy Disks

A post on Lew Rockwell’s Political Theatre blog this morning mentioned this story from 2016. I remember when the story came out and thinking then that it was a perfect example of the screwed up priorities of the federal government.

Per the Guardian:

“The US military’s nuclear arsenal is controlled by computers built in the 1970s that still use 8in floppy disks.

A report into the state of the US government, released by congressional investigators, has revealed that the country is spending around $60bn (£40.8bn) to maintain museum-ready computers, which many do not even know how to operate any more, as their creators retire.”

The amount of money spent annually to manage the nuclear system can be debated. What is abundantly clear is that using 50-year-old computers, comprised of technology that doesn’t even exist anymore, to control the emergency nuclear launch system of thousands of nuclear weapons is shockingly irresponsible. Modern computers have a shelf life of about five years before they become obsolete.  What does that say about our nuclear capabilities? How much of that $60 billion is being wasted propping up old, outdated technology?

While our nuclear arsenal is controlled by obsolete technology, the NSA, CIA, and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies are spending upwards of a hundred billion dollars on state of the art technology to spy on American citizens. The CIA currently has the technology to hack the computer system in your car and control it independently. They can hack your newest consumer gadgets and spy on you in your own home. It is more than a little disconcerting that the federal government spends more tax dollars spying on and attacking their own citizens, than they do on the system that defends them from foreign nuclear attacks.

As someone who is unwaveringly anti-war, I believe anti-war people need to support treaties that pare down the nuclear arsenal to bare minimum levels. At the same time, any nuclear weapons that a state does maintain need to, at least, be operated by current technology.

All this begs the question: can the U.S. even launch nuclear weapons with their outdated system?

Per The Guardian:

“Given that magnetic media has a finite shelf life, and that disks and the drives needed to read and write to them are older than some of the operators of the machinery, the floppy revelation makes you wonder whether the US could even launch a nuclear attack if required. An “error, data corrupted” message could be literally life or death.”

The Pentagon claims that replacement computers are forthcoming and that the 8 in. floppy disks will all be replaced by the end of 2017. Given this is the same federal government that is $20 trillion dollars in debt and has been running annual budget deficits for almost two decades, forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

Tucker Carlson Eviscerates Neocon Warmonger in Primetime

Fox News host Tucker Carlson absolutely demolishes neoconservative foreign policy advisor Max Boot in this 10 minute interview. In addition to calling out Boot for being “consistently wrong in the most flagrant and flamboyant way for over a decade”, he questions his career choice, asking him whether he’d be better at “selling insurance or housepainting”.

Though it may seem a bit sophomoric, this is exactly the type of derision and mockery the interventionist neoconservative foreign policy deserves. Their policy of regime change in the middle east and elsewhere has failed miserably and spectacularly. It has caused millions of deaths, the proliferation of Islamic terrorism, and the destabilization of the entire region.

 

Apathetic Americans, the CIA, and the Surveillance State

You may remember that earlier this March, Wikileaks released their latest cache of government documents, called Vault 7. There were many revelations that came out of the release, which I covered here.

One of the leaks from Vault 7 had to do with the CIA and the Amazon Echo, the popular voice activated home and personal assistant. Wikileaks discovered that the CIA is capable of independently taking over the microphone feature of the Echo to listen and record your conversations. Even more creepy is that the CIA has also developed a “fake off” setting to allow them to spy on you even while you think your device is off.

Many of the more skeptical among us were already wary of devices like the Amazon Echo. While technologically advanced and potentially very useful, Amazon’s Echo and similar devices, which utilize the Alexa voice assistant, amount to little more than a giant, active microphone in your house. What the Vault 7 release proved is that the CIA is both willing and capable to manipulate consumer technology to engage in mass warrantless spying.

Fast forward four months to July 11th. It’s Amazon Prime Day, an annual cyber-shopping day where Amazon lowers prices on thousands of items site wide.

Care to take a guess as to the bestselling items on Amazon Prime Day? According to The Street, the top three items sold were: the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Dot (a smaller version of the Echo), and the Fire 7 Tablet (which has built-in Alexa capabilities). Over 12% of American households currently have an Echo device.

Not even four months after Wikileaks released classified documents proving that the CIA can access, listen, and record your private conversations through the Amazon Echo, the top three bestselling items on Amazon Prime Day were all equipped with Echo technology.

The collective apathy of the American public toward their 4th amendment right to be free from unreasonable, warrantless spying is disheartening, to say the least. We know that the government has been collecting massive amounts of cell phone data and now they are using devices like the Amazon Echo, Samsung TV’s, and others  to undermine individual privacy and erode the 4th Amendment.

Rick Perry Mangles Basic Economics

Last week, Department of Energy boss Rick Perry stuck his foot in his mouth when he said to a group of coal workers, “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand. You put the supply out there and the demand will follow.” On its face, the statement seems to imply that supply creates its own demand. This is obviously not true. CNN and other cable news networks wasted no time pointing this out.

These errors are nothing new for Perry, who has a history of this kind of verbal faux pas. He sank his presidential campaign in 2012, when, during a primary debate, he famously forgot the names of the three federal departments he would eliminate. (The correct answer is all of them.)

What Perry got wrong is called Say’s Law, or the Law of Markets. J.B. Say was a French economist in the late 18th century who noted not that supply creates its own demand, but that production always precedes consumption.

Say wrote in his A Treatise on Political Economy wrote,

“A product is no sooner created, than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value…As each of us can only purchase the productions of others with his own productions – as the value we can buy is equal to the value we can produce, the more men can produce, the more they will purchase”

 

Because of  the division of labor, you work, producing goods or services for your employer. Your labor is compensated with money, which you use to buy things that other people produce. The more money you make, the more you tend to purchase.  These are not controversial economic statements.

At the macro level, the Law of Markets says that aggregate supply will drive aggregate demand to a relatively equal level. This means that there can never be a general glut in the economy over the long term. When the market is allowed to operate freely, businesses that fail are liquidated into the capital the fuels new businesses ventures, some of which succeed. This is how economies grow.

Instantly, you can see why government doesn’t like the Law of Markets. If a free market produces a growing economy, it is much more difficult for them to steal the money to intervene in the economy  i.e. socialize the costs of failing pet interests, bail out industries en masse, and wage aggressive wars around the world.

John Maynard Keynes was the one who coined the phrase “supply creates its own demand” as a way to discredit the Law of Markets. Keynesian economics advocates for widespread government intervention into the economy. He thought government could end the business cycle by stimulating demand when necessary and contracting when necessary, providing a smooth, growing national economy. Given that we are still feeling the effects of the government driven economic meltdown of 2008, that is clearly a laughable proposition.

Secretary Perry’s mangling of the Law of Markets shows that he doesn’t understand the underlying economic principles. Not surprising, given the GOP’s dismal track record on economics.

Economic Bubbles and the Fed

From Ron Paul’s weekly column at The Ron Paul Institute:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently predicted that, thanks to the regulations implemented after the 2008 market meltdown, America would not experience another economic crisis “in our lifetimes.” Yellen’s statement should send shivers down our spines, as there are few more reliable signals of an impending recession, or worse, than when so-called “experts” proclaim that we are in an era of unending prosperity.

Yellen’s statement underlies the general attitude of government economic managers who believe that even though crashes have become a normal part of the Keynesian mixed economy, they wouldn’t happen under the right leadership. It’s the same delusion that the communists suffered from: if only the right “top men” were in charge, everything would’ve been fine. The problem is that if the car is broken down, it doesn’t really matter who’s driving.

Yellen also seems to be underestimating the impact of student loan and federal debt. Student loan debt outpaced personal credit card debt in 2010 and shows no signs of slowing down. Student loan debt already totals over $1 trillion dollars. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except for the troubling trend of student loan defaults. More than 8 million borrowers stopped paying their student loans and defaulted student loan debt is up over 14% in 2016 alone.

This is the same trajectory the housing bubble took before it crashed in 2008. For years, the government, operating on the theory that every American should own a home, used Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and artificially low-interest rates to extend easy credit. Banks, knowing that questionable loans would be covered, began lending to unqualified borrowers, known as sub-prime lending. Millions of these borrowers, who wouldn’t have qualified for loans under traditional market circumstances, began defaulting and “pop” went the bubble, along with the U.S. and world economy.

Federal debt issues are even more pressing. Already over $20 trillion, the federal debt is largely ignored by our politicians. Dr. Paul writes, “Despite claims of both defenders and critics of the president’s budget, neither President Trump nor the Republican Congress have any plans for, or interest in, reducing spending in any area.” A full two-thirds of the federal budget is spent on three mandatory items: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the federal debt. Those percentages will increase as the baby boomer generation continues to retire and the debt continues to increase.

Given the federal government’s total lack of desire to cut real spending, as well as the Fed’s penchant for monetizing the debt, the prospects of limitless prosperity seems far-fetched at best and dangerously naïve at worst.