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Not Iran! Obama Is Doing a Chilling Imitation of Bush's Iraq War Lies

March 31, 2013 in Blogs

By Falguni A. Sheth, Salon



A gold star if you can guess who made the following four statements without clicking on the links. Hint: Two were by an aggressive, hawkish, Republican, one of which was famously said over 10 years ago. Two others are by the more erudite, constitutionally savvy, liberal, moderate, current president. You remember him: He’s the one  Hillary Clinton taunted in 2008 as not being tough enough to answer the phone at 3 a.m. At this point, it’s safe to say that we no longer need to worry about that.

1) “I have made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. As President, I have said to the world that all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”

2) “One thing is certain. The United States should never allow Iran to threaten the world with a nuclear bomb.”

3) “Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.”

4) “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.”

The rumblings of invading and “punishing” Iran have been in existence at least since President G.W. Bush’s famous 2002 “We Will Save the World From the Bad Guys” speech, which framed American foreign policy objectives for the foreseeable future. After confirming the U.S. “partnership with Afghanistan” to fight the terrorists, he named future …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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David Howden on the Euro

March 31, 2013 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

David Howden is interviewed on the GoldMoney show with Andy Duncan.

“Howden thinks that the Euro will hold together in the short term, but he is rather pessimistic on the long term outlook of the common currency. One at a time countries which were formerly regarded as “stable” are being dragged into the debt hole. Though he assesses the problems in the United States to be even greater than Europe’s, he points out that whenever Euro fears start to creep up the US is benefiting due to the depth of its Treasury market.”

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Joining Match.com at Age 58

March 31, 2013 in Blogs

By Anne Lamott, Salon



Heroes come in all circumstances and ages. The prophet tells us, “Your old will have visions; your young will dream dreams.” Elderly women in a retirement community in Mill Valley protested the war in Iraq on a busy thoroughfare with placards every Friday for years. A man I know of 22, halfway to a medical degree, is pursuing ballet dreams in New York City. Some people my age — extreme middle-age — train for marathons, or paddle down the Amazon, skydive, or adopt. They publish for the first time.

Me? I may have done the most heroic thing of all. I went on Match.com for a year.

The thing was, I had just done something brave, which was to write a memoir with my son, tour the East Coast together, and appear on stages before hundreds of people at a time. But one dream coming true doesn’t mean you give up on other lifelong dreams. You’re not dream-greedy to want, say, a cool career and a mate. And having realized this one long-shot dream with my grown child gave me the confidence to try something even harder: to date.

I recoil even from the word “date,” let alone the concept of possibly beginning a romantic relationship. Those woods are so spooky. I have an almost perfect life, even though I’ve been single since my last long-term boyfriend and I broke up four years ago. I really do, insofar as that is possible in this vale of tears — a cherished family, a grandchild, church, career, sobriety, two dogs, daily hikes, naps, perfect friends. But sometimes I am lonely for a partner, a soul mate, a husband.

I had loved the sleeping alone part. I rarely missed sex: I had tiny boundary issues in all those years of drinking, and by my early 20s I had used up my lifelong allotment. I over-served myself. I do love what Wodehouse called the old oompus-boompus when it happens to be in progress, but wouldn’t go out of my way. Additionally, I have spent approximately 1,736 hours of this one precious life waiting for the man to finish, and pretending that …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Exxon Confirms 80,000-Gallon Spill Contains Canadian Tar Sands Oil

March 31, 2013 in Blogs

By Lisa Song, InsideClimate News



The story first appeared on InsideClimate News.

A pipeline that ruptured and leaked at least 80,000 gallons of oil into central Arkansas on Friday was transporting a heavy form of crude from the Canadian tar sands region, ExxonMobil told InsideClimate News. 

Local police said the line gushed oil for 45 minutes before being stopped,according to media reports.

Crude oil ran through a subdivision of Mayflower, Ark., about 20 miles north of Little Rock. Twenty-two homes were evacuated, but no one was hospitalized, Exxon spokesman Charlie Engelmann said on Saturday.

In an interview with InsideClimate News, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said emergency crews prevented the oil from entering waterways. The judge issued an emergency declaration following the spill and is involved in coordinating clean-up efforts among federal, state and local agencies and Exxon.

The 20-inch Pegasus pipeline runs 858 miles from Patoka, Ill. to Nederland, Texas. Engelmann said the line was carrying Wabasca Heavy crude from western Canada when it ruptured.

Wabasca Heavy is a type of diluted bitumen, or dilbit, from Alberta's tar sands region, according to the Canadian Crude Quality Monitoring Program, an industry source that provides data on different types of Canadian oil.

Because dilbit contains bitumen—a type of crude oil that's heavier than most conventional crude oil—it can be harder to clean up when it spills into water. A2010 spill in Michigan, which released a million gallons of dilbit in the Kalamazoo River and has cost pipeline operator Enbridge more than $820 million, continues to challenge scientists and regulators as they work on removing submerged oil from the riverbed.

Dodson said emergency crews led a “monumentally successful” effort to prevent the Exxon spill from entering nearby Lake Conway, a popular recreational area. First responders set up earthen dams to contain the flow of oil, he said, and crews are working to shore up the protections as rains continue to fall and complicate the cleanup operations.

The size of the spill remains unclear. Dodson said the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the spill at 84,000 gallons. The EPA and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management did not return calls for comment.

According to a …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Have Militant Atheists Created a New Religion?

March 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Frans De Waal, W. W. Norton & Company



The following is an excerpt from “The Bonobo and the Atheist”,  by Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton, 2013).

One quiet Sunday morning, I stroll down the driveway of my home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, to pick up the newspaper. As I arrive at the bottom—we live on a hill—a Cadillac drives up the street and stops right before me. A big man in a suit steps out, sticking out his hand. A firm handshake follows, during which I hear him proclaim in a booming, almost happy voice, “I’m looking for lost souls!” Apart from perhaps being overly trusting, I am rather slow and had no idea what he was talking about. I turned around to look behind me, thinking that perhaps he had lost his dog, then corrected myself and mumbled something like, “I’m not very religious.”

This was of course a lie, because I am not religious at all. The man, a pastor, was taken aback, probably more by my accent than by my answer. He must have realized that converting a European to his brand of religion was going to be a challenge, so he walked back to his car, but not without handing me a business card in case I’d change my mind. A day that had begun so promisingly now left me feeling like I might go straight to hell.

I was raised Catholic. Not just a little bit Catholic, like my wife, Catherine. When she was young, many Catholics in France already barely went to church, except for the big three: baptism, marriage, and funeral. And only the middle one was by choice. By contrast, in the southern Netherlands—known as “below the rivers”—Catholicism was important during my youth. It defined us, setting us apart from the above-the-rivers Protestants. Every Sunday morning, we went to church in our best clothes, we received catechism at school, we sang, prayed, and confessed, and a vicar or bishop was present at every official occasion to dispense holy water (which we children happily imitated at home with a toilet brush). We were Catholic through and through.

But I am not anymore. In my interactions with religious and nonreligious …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Where Does It Say the Supreme Court Has the Constitutional Power to Hike Medicine Prices to 5x Their Cost?

March 30, 2013 in Blogs

By David Dayen, Salon.com



The Supreme Court oral arguments on marriage equality deserved all the attention they received — but it’s another case heard this week that will affect even more people over the course of their lifetimes. And it could cost Americans millions in prescription drug bills.

The case falls within a sadly predictable continuum for the Roberts Court, which virtually always sides with the corporate litigant over the government or individual. This time, the arguments in FTC v. Actavis revolve around an insidious tactic common to the nation’s largest drug companies, and known as “pay for delay.” As a result of the likely ruling in this case, drug companies will be able to charge consumers as much as five times the potential cost of their products. And both government regulators and consumers will watch helplessly as pharmaceutical companies bribe generic drug makers to retain their exclusive holds on the lifesaving medicines we all inevitably require.

The first thing to know here is that U.S. pharmaceuticals get a very good deal from the federal government. For every new drug they produce, they get rewarded with long-term patents that grant them exclusive rights to market and sell the product for as much as 20 years – which guarantees them billions in profits and no competitors in the marketplace. Drug companies claim that they must be allowed to profit off of products they nurtured with expensive research and development. In reality, taxpayer-funded research from academia or the National Institutes of Health account for the vast majority of vital drugs brought to market every year, and R&D is a small fraction of the overall drug company budget. What’s more, drug companies routinely use their monopoly power to jack up pharmaceutical prices, which cost far more in the U.S. than anywhere in the world.

Congress tried to deal with this problem as far back as 1984. The Hatch-Waxman Act accelerated the FDA approval process for generic drugs, essentially copies of the brand-name products. Typically, generics sell at a much lower price – in most cases by 80-90 percent, which obviously makes them quite popular. So the introduction of a generic drug basically …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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America’s Great Depression Quotes of the Week: Bank Failures and Real Monetary Reform

March 28, 2013 in Economics

By John P. Cochran

The Road Not Taken in 1933 and its Modern Consequences

           The crisis in Cyprus is awakening some to the true nature of fractional reserve banking as evidenced by  headlines such as this (from the Drudge Report March 28, 2013) ‘THEY HAVE STOLEN OUR MONEY’… . Compared to responses to previous crises and applications of too big to fail, at least this response has moved away from tax payer financed bailouts of bank creditors. See for example: 1. In today’s Wall Street Journal Luskin and Roche Kelly, “Regime Change Comes to Euro Policy who argue, “The banking crisis in Cyprus prompted an overdue financial reckoning that, with luck, will spell the end of ‘too big to fail.’; and 2. From yesterday’s WSJ “Shocked About Cyprus”, with its subtitle, “How dare a European bank rescue not hit taxpayers.”

            This should be a great time to re-awaken the public again to the true risks of money substitutes and fiduciary media and begin a focus of meaningful banking reform as a beginning of true recovery and sustainable prosperity.

            Rothbard (AGD, 21) provides an strong argument for the bebefical aspects of bank failures:

Banks should no more be exempt from paying their obligations than is any other business. Any interference with their comeuppance via bank runs will establish banks as a specially privileged group, not obligated to pay their debts, and will lead to later inflations, credit expansions, and depressions. And if, as we contend, banks are inherently bankrupt and “runs” simply reveal that bankruptcy, it is beneficial for the economy for the banking system to be reformed, once and for all, by a thorough purge of the fractional-reserve banking system. Such a purge would bring home forcefully to the public the dangers of fractional-reserve banking, and, more than any academic theorizing, insure against such banking evils in the future.

And later in the same work, Rothbard commenting on the bank panic-bank holidays of late 1932 and early 1933 (AGD 329) provides a template for handling a bank failure in line with protecting property rights and the rule of law in a way that could ultimately end the boom-bust cycle:

The laissez-faire method would have permitted the banks of the nation to close—as they probably would have done without governmental intervention. The bankrupt banks could then have been transferred to the ownership of their depositors, who would have taken charge of the invested, frozen …read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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DPRK Is the World's Responsibility, Not Just China's

March 28, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The satellite launch and subsequent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have greatly increased the level of concern in the United States and its East Asian allies. A frequent response is to demand that China rein in its troublesome ally. There is a growing view in the West, now verging on consensus, that China holds the key to taming Pyongyang’s behavior and solving the crisis caused by the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs. And there is mounting anger that the Chinese government seems unwilling to use its influence in a decisive manner.

Washington Post writer David Ignatius stated in a March 13 column that “through two administrations, the underlying US strategy toward North Korea has been to seek China’s help in containing this destabilizing force in northeast Asia”. But that policy “has largely failed, and the United States should be running out of patience. With depressing consistency, China has failed to step up to its responsibilities as a regional superpower”.

The view Ignatius expressed is neither rare nor recent. A December 2012 editorial in the conservative financial newspaper Investors Business Daily urged the Obama administration “to scrap the weasel words and start shaming China, whose actions are making the UN good for nothing in the face of a rapidly progressing nuclear threat”. More than a decade ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asserted that Beijing could end the North Korean nuclear crisis with a telephone call threatening to cut off aid, and he found it highly suspicious that Chinese officials were unwilling to make that call.

US policymakers and pundits should perhaps examine how a change in US strategy might produce better results.”

Such views overestimate the extent of Beijing’s influence, and often seem designed to make China a scapegoat for the international community’s inability to end Pyongyang’s nuclear aspirations. True, China is one of the DPRK’s few allies, and is by far that country’s largest and most important ally. Since the late 1940s, mutual strategic interests and ideological factors have cemented the alliance. Today, China also provides the DPRK with much of the food and energy supplies it requires.

Both the history of the alliance and the current economic relationship mean that Beijing has more influence than any other country in Pyongyang. But that does not translate into being able to dictate to the DPRK’s government. Kim Jong-un’s regime has its own …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Europe between Planners and Searchers

March 28, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

In his 2006 book, The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly makes the distinction between “planners” and “searchers” in economic development. Planners like to believe they already have the answers to big questions of economic development, which they often see as simple engineering problems, waiting to be fixed by enlightened political elites.

In contrast, searchers display more humility both in the choice of questions they attempt to address and the answers they provide. Searchers try to address local, context-specific problems, instead of coming up with a “Grand Theory of Development,” and are willing to accept that answers might arise from the bottom up, through experimentation, and trial and error.

Although Easterly’s interest is in economic development, the distinction between planners and searchers is at the heart of many public policy disagreements. And in spite of appearances, the planners versus searchers dichotomy is not an ideological distinction. Some free-marketeers are keen on particular one-size-fits-all solutions (think about proponents of the gold standard), and there may well be people on the political left who understand the idea of context-specificity and local knowledge.

In fact, there is a place for both. Hayek once famously wrote, “this is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not,” but rather a dispute about whether it “is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals.” Individuals, firms, and governments do—and should—plan. A problem arises, however, when the limits of planning are not recognized and when it is expected that the planner always has a correct answer to any policy question.

We’ve yet to see the final bill for the ideological blindness of European planners.”

Hayek devoted his life to explaining the pitfalls of one instance of such hubris—the command economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. While in no way commensurable with the atrocities of communism, the ideological commitment of European political elites to the European integration project may well enter history books as yet another illustration of such bloated self-confidence.

Europe has a long-standing “planning” tradition, which the European integration process has mirrored. This intellectual undercurrent encompasses the belief that governments should play an important role in the economy, but more importantly the belief that European countries need to move towards a political union. A corollary is the notion—implicit in European policy debates—that Europe’s problems require a common European response.

Though initially prompted by an ambition to enlarge …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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The Cyprus Deal and the Unraveling of Fractional-Reserve Banking

March 27, 2013 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

The “Cyprus deal” as it has been widely referred to in the media may mark the next to last act in the the slow motion collapse of fractional-reserve banking that began with the implosion of the savings-and-loan industry in the U.S. in the late 1980s. This trend continued with the currency crises in Russia, Mexico, East Asia and Argentina in the 1990s in which fractional-reserve banking played a decisive role. The unraveling of fractional-reserve banking became visible even to the average depositor during the financial meltdown of 2008 that ignited bank runs on some of the largest and most venerable financial institutions in the world. The final collapse was only averted by the multi-trillion dollar bailout of U.S. and foreign banks by the Federal Reserve.

Even more than the unprecedented financial crisis of 2008, however, recent events in Cyprus may have struck the mortal blow to fractional-reserve banking. For fractional reserve banking can only exist for as long as the depositors have complete confidence that regardless of the financial woes that befall the bank entrusted with their “deposits,” they will always be able to withdraw them on demand at par in currency, the ultimate cash of any banking system. Ever since World War Two governmental deposit insurance, backed up by the money-creating powers of the central bank, was seen as the unshakable guarantee that warranted such confidence. In effect, fractional-reserve banking was perceived as 100-percent banking by depositors, who acted as if their money was always “in the bank” thanks to the ability of central banks to conjure up money out of thin air (or in cyberspace). Perversely the various crises involving fractional-reserve banking that struck time and again since the late 1980s only reinforced this belief among depositors, because troubled banks and thrift institutions were always bailed out with alacrity–especially the largest and least stable. Thus arose the “too-big-to-fail doctrine.” Under this doctrine, uninsured bank depositors and bondholders were generally made whole when large banks failed, because it was widely understood that the confidence in the entire banking system was a frail and evanescent thing that would break and completely dissipate as a result of the failure of even a single large institution.

Getting back to the Cyprus deal, admittedly it is hardly ideal from a free-market point of view. The solution in accord with free markets would not …read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE