Future Dystopia?

The 16th and 17th centuries saw experiments in colonialism, imperialism, and mercantilism, centered in Western Europe. The 18th and 19th centuries saw experiments in democracy and freedom (market, religious, thought, limited government), centered in the United States and quickly brought the fledgling country to prominence, although with many issues. The 20th century saw experiments in fascism and socialism, centered in Eastern Europe and Asia, and the more socialistic the government, the more of its own people the government killed (deaths of 260+ million people in China, Russia, Germany and more, not including World Wars).

If one forgets about largely unpredictable shocks such as war, asteroids, etc. (and even these may simply be delays unless catastrophic), what might happen in the next few centuries?

The following predictions are based on two basic assumptions: that there still exist a lot of societal issues even in the most advanced countries that must be addressed, and that ideas of political utopianism or brand new ideologies have been exhausted. Both assumptions are worth questioning.

The 21st century will most likely be an experiment in “mixed” systems in which government interventionism and markets are mixed in different ratios, neither too much toward socialism nor too much toward libertarianism, with various levels of political freedom (mostly liberal democracy or communism). This may lead to one of the following outcomes:

  1. Failure: Economically unsustainable systems which collapse or morph into previous systems.
  2. Failure: Incremental degeneration into a stagnant or dystopian global government.
  3. Success: Broadly successful societies roughly equivalent to, or better than, modern day Western European societies.
  4. Success: A broadly successful global government roughly equivalent to, or better than, modern day Western European societies.

#1 is very possible, although the devolution is unfavorable towards libertarianism, and more favorable towards fascism (bad), socialism (bad), or liberaltarianism (maybe good).

If #3 or #4 materialize, then that’s it, we’ve basically got the best we can do and the only thing left would be to protect the system itself, although there will probably continue to be various societal problems which will be dealt with by delicate experiments in the 22nd century on top of this global government apparatus.

#2 is the most likely, assuming the fallacy of “mixed” economies.

Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem bitte.

 

Lightning Deaths and Injuries, 1959-1994

Deaths and injuries per year (1994 and 30 year normal):

  • Extreme temperatures: 81 deaths, 298 injuries
  • Lightning: 69 deaths, 484 injuries
  • Tornado: 69 deaths, 1067 injuries
  • Flash flood: 59 deaths, 33 injuries
  • River flood: 32 deaths, 14 injuries
  • Winter weather: 31 deaths, 2690 injuries
  • Thunderstorm wind: 17 deaths, 315 injuries
  • Hurricane: 9 deaths, 45 injuries
  • Other high wind: 12 deaths, 61 injuries
  • Fog: 3 deaths, 99 injuries

Lightning Fatalities, Injuries, and Damage Reports in the United States from 1959-1994, NOAA Scientific Services Division, October 1997, http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/papers/techmemos/NWS-SR-193/techmemo-sr193.html.

Lightning-related fatality, injury, and damage reports for the United States were summarized for 36 years since 1959, based on the NOAA publication Storm Data. There were 3239 deaths, 9818 injuries, and 19,814 property-damage reports from lightning during this period…

Florida led the nation in the actual number of deaths and injuries…

Casualties reached a sharper maximum in July, while damage reports were spread more evenly through the year…

National Lightning Detection Network data in recent years were used to estimate that one lightning casualty occurred for every 86,000 flashes in the US. A similar method results in one death for every 345,000 flashes, and an injury for every 114,000 flashes. A rate of 7.7 casualties per million people per 100 million flashes was found for the US…

Two-thirds of the casualties occurred between [12PM] and [4PM]…

For incidents involving deaths only, 91% of the cases had one fatality, while another 8% of the events had two people killed in the same incident…

Outdoor recreation was the next largest category in every region and for the US. The third largest group involved people located under trees, and the fourth was related to the proximity of victims to bodies of water. Although it is sometimes thought that golfers are frequent victims of lightning, they trail the preceding groups in frequency. There were not many lightning victims involved in agricultural activities. Telephones were an infrequent but persistent source of casualties, while people in proximity to radios and antennas were the least frequent category…

Lightning Fatalities, Injuries, and Damage Reports in the United States from 1959-1994, NOAA Scientific Services Division, October 1997, http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/papers/techmemos/NWS-SR-193/techmemo-sr193-13.html.



 

Soccer in No Man’s Land (Christmas, 1914)

A sudden cold snap had left the battlefield frozen, which was actually a relief for troops wallowing in sodden mire. Along the Front, troops extracted themselves from their trenches and dugouts, approaching each other warily, and then eagerly, across No Man’s Land. Greetings and handshakes were exchanged, as were gifts scavenged from care packages sent from home. German souvenirs that ordinarily would have been obtained only through bloodshed – such as spiked pickelhaube helmets, or Gott mit uns belt buckles – were bartered for similar British trinkets. Carols were sung in German, English, and French. A few photographs were taken of British and German officers standing alongside each other, unarmed, in No Man’s Land.

Near the Ypres salient, Germans and Scotsmen chased after wild hares that, once caught, served as an unexpected Christmas feast. Perhaps the sudden exertion of chasing wild hares prompted some of the soldiers to think of having a football match. Then again, little prompting would have been necessary to inspire young, competitive men – many of whom were English youth recruited off soccer fields – to stage a match. In any case, numerous accounts in letters and journals attest to the fact that on Christmas 1914, German and English soldiers played soccer on the frozen turf of No Man’s Land.

British Field Artillery Lieutenant John Wedderburn-Maxwell described the event as “probably the most extraordinary event of the whole war – a soldier’s truce without any higher sanction by officers and generals.”…

“It was an amazing spectacle,” Doyle reflected, “and must arouse bitter thought concerning the high-born conspirators against the peace of the world, who in their mad ambition had hounded such men on to take each other by the throat rather than by the hand.”…

Scottish historian Roland Watson writes: “The State bellows the orders ‘Kill! Maim! Conquer!’ but a deeper instinct within the individual does not readily put a bullet through another who has done no great offense, but who rather says with them, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Pro Libertate, http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2009/12/truce-of-god.html.

World War 1 was probably the most brutal war in the history of humans. With 9 million soldiers running body first to die– in a 19th century way– into 20th century machine guns, the war accomplished nothing, sowed the seeds of fascism and communism which was to take many more lives, and engaged the United States in global interventionism, from which it would never look back.

 

Where does Greed come from?

Rothbard argues that greed comes from scarcity.

It’s true: greed has had a very bad press. I frankly don’t see anything wrong with greed. I think that the people who are always attacking greed would be more consistent with their position if they refused their next salary increase. I don’t see even the most Left-Wing scholar in this country scornfully burning his salary check. In other words, “greed” simply means that you are trying to relieve the nature given scarcity that man was born with. Greed will continue until the Garden of Eden arrives, when everything is superabundant, and we don’t have to worry about economics at all. We haven’t of course reached that point yet; we haven’t reached the point where everybody is burning his salary increases, or salary checks in general. So the question then becomes: what kind of greed are we going to have, “productive greed,” where people produce and voluntarily exchange their products with others? Or exploitative greed, organized robbery and predation, where you achieve your wealth at the expense of others? These are the two real alternatives.

… In contrast to the age-old institution of statism, of the political means, free-market capitalism arrived as a great revolutionary movement in the history of man. For it came into a world previously marked by despotism, by tyranny, by totalitarian control. Emerging first in the Italian city states free market capitalism arrived full scale with the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe, a revolution that brought about a remarkable release of creative energy and productive ability, an enormous increase of production. You can call that “greed” if you wish; you can attack as “greed” the desire of someone on a poverty level who wishes to better his lot.

… As a result, I, with the same position I had then, have been shifted bodily from extreme right to left without any effort on my part at all. Decentralization; community control; attack on Leviathan government, on bureaucracy, on government interference with each person’s life; attack on the state-ridden educational system; criticism of unionism, which is tied up with the state; opposition to militarism, war, imperialism, and conscription; all these things that the Left is now beginning to see, is precisely what we “extreme Right-Wingers” have been saying all along. And, as far as “decentralization” goes, there is nothing that is so decentralized as the free market, and perhaps this too will come to the attention of the public.

… State capitalism inevitably creates all sorts of problems which become insoluble; as Mises again has pointed out, one intervention into the system to try to solve problems only creates other problems, which then demand further interventions, etc., and so the whole process keeps snowballing until you have a completely collectivist, totalitarian system.

… It’s beginning to be seen, for example, that the Welfare State does not tax the rich and give to the poor; it taxes the poorer to give to the richer, and the poor in essence pay for the Welfare State. It is beginning to be seen that foreign intervention is essentially a method of subsidizing favored American corporations instead of helping out the poor in the undeveloped countries. And it is now becoming evident that the Keynesian policies only succeeded in bringing us to the present impasse of inflation-cum-recession, and that our Olympian economists have no way of getting out of the present mess at all, except to cross their fingers and their econometric models and pray.

… Thus, we have a lot of crises looming in America, some on their way, others imminent or already here. All of these crises are the products of intervention, and none of them can really be solved by more intervention… The Great Depression has always been considered as the product of free-market capitalism of the 1920s. It was the result of very heavy government intervention in the l920s, an intervention, by the way, that is very similar to the current intervention. In the 1920s, we had the newly imposed Federal Reserve System, which all the Establishment economists of the day assured us would eliminate all future depressions; the Federal Reserve System would henceforth manipulate prices and the money supply and iron out business cycles forever. Nineteen twenty-nine and the Great Depression were the results of that manipulation guided by the wise hands of Establishment economics–they were not the results of anything like free-market capitalism.

… In short, the advent of industrialism and the Industrial Revolution has irreversibly changed the prognosis for freedom and statism. In the pre-industrial era, statism and despotism could peg along indefinitely, content to keep the peasantry at subsistence levels and to live off their surplus. But industrialism has broken the old tables; for it has become evident that socialism cannot run an industrial system, and it is gradually becoming evident that neomercantilism, interventionism, in the long run cannot run an industrial system either. Free-market capitalism, the victory of social power and the economic means, is not only the only moral and by far the most productive system; it has become the only viable system for mankind in the industrial era. Its eventual triumph is therefore virtually inevitable.

A Future of Peace and Capitalism, Murray N. Rothbard, 1973, http://mises.org/daily/1559.

See also: Does Gravity Cause Plane Crashes?, Greed, Selfishness, and Self-interest, and The fallacy of a “mixed” economy.

 

The Danger of Illusion

I think we are the most deeply illusioned society on the planet. One strives towards dreams. One lives within illusions. You can see it in innumerable examples. Let’s just take the last presidential election. Here we were a country that not only under international law were waging a doctrine of preemptive war, which under post-Nuremberg laws are defined as illegal wars of aggression. We were running off-shore penal colonies where we openly tortured people detained without any rights. We had had a banana republic seizure of the electoral process in 2000. And yet we talked about our virtues and the greatest country on Earth; the greatest democracy on Earth. The disparity between what we were doing and the perception of who we are– This is just writ large throughout the culture, and it plays to a very pernicious fantasy, which is that we as Americans can have everything we want. If we just dig deep enough within ourselves. If we tap our hidden potential. If we grasp that we are truly exceptional, reality will never be an impediment to what we desire. And this message, which is magical thinking, is passed off to us across the ideological spectrum. It’s Oprah Winfrey. It’s the Christian Right. It’s Corporatism. It’s the entertainment industry… All of those institutional forces that keep the poor, poor.

When we tell blue collar workers that they are somehow responsible for the fact that they can’t find employment or meaningful employment. That they can’t get adequate health care. That they live without dignity or hope. That that is again a disconnect between the reality around us. We have literally, in many manufacturing centers in this country, packed up industries and crated them off to Mexico, or the Philippines, or China. They don’t exist anymore. And what does exist are often rusted out hulks. This is not the fault of workers. And I think that disparity between the illusion of who we are and what we can become, and the reality that is now opening up, with heightened foreclosures, massive unemployment– we’re shedding jobs at a faster rate than after the 1929 crash– Is creating a frightening chasm. Because what illusion does is it allows you, in essence, to remain in a state of infantilism; of childishness. Without facing responsibly, I think, the stark new limitations. And maybe perhaps even new humility which is needed for us to cope with what’s coming. So that as that divide widens between who we think we are and what we think we are and what we actually are, eventually it snaps; it breaks. And if you’re not prepared, you react as children react, which is out of rage– and I think we’re already seeing these kind of proto-fascist movements leaping up on the fringes of American society. A call for revenge. A following of demagogues who promise moral renewal.

And that’s the danger of illusion. And I think across the country, we still have not yet grasped, either in terms of our imperial expansion — The fact that we’re borrowing at this point to maintain a lifestyle and an empire that we can no longer afford. And either we being to face these responsibilities or we will be confronted with collapse, which we are not intellectually, emotionally, or psychologically prepared to handle.

After Words: Chris Hedges, Empire of Illussion, Interviewed by Ron Suskind, C-SPAN BookTV, October 3, 2009, 9:28, http://www.booktv.org/Watch/10883/After+Words+Chris+Hedges+Empire+of+Illusion+Interviewed+by+Ron+Suskind.aspx.

 

College Education Tuition Costs

Started in 1701, Yale is one of the oldest colleges in the United States, and has good historical records. Below is a graph of tuition costs, enrollment, and population since 1787.

Notice that tuition rates stayed mostly constant even as population and enrollment increased (until 1952). In particular, in the period from around 1850 to 1940, the height of the Industrial Revolution, tuition rates stayed constant as enrollment increased dramatically, without any state or federal student aid.

yale2

Sources from yale.edu: f.pdf, L1_Univ_Tuitions_1976_1999.pdf, W082_Tuits_U.pdf, a.pdf, A1_Enrollment_Statistics_1976_1999.pdf, W003_Enroll_SchProg.pdf (yale.ods).

In 1952, tuition rates jumped and then went exponential. In 1951, Yale received its first monetary federal research support [yale.edu]. In 1958, the federal government began its first student loan program, the National Defense Education Act, followed by many other student aid programs.

Libertarianism has two main arguments for why government causes high tuition costs. First, student aid bids up prices. Most students are unacceptable loan risks for private companies– an average 18 year old making very little is unlikely to pay back a $5,000 per year private loan. So the government stepped in to provide student aid. This effectively gives money to students which the private sector would not give. The students then use this to bid up tuition costs. In the absence of aid, the students simply couldn’t afford current levels of tuition, but colleges wouldn’t simply take less students or close. They would cut costs like any other business. Second, economies of scale and technology should decrease price and cost, and increase the capacity for more students. There are more students and there should be increased productivity for the administration and teachers, so cost per student should drop. Most colleges are inefficient because the level of student aid is a practical guarantee for certain revenue levels, so there is no incentive to cut costs. Politicians use this fact to push for more student aid, which pushes prices even higher.

 

Trains!!

L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat is “generally considered to be the first motion picture in modern history… Popular legend has it that, when this film was shown, the first-night audience fled the café in terror, fearing being run over by the “approaching” train. This legend has since been identified as promotional embellishment, though there is evidence to suggest that people were astounded at the capabilities of the Lumières’ cinématographe” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000012/trivia).

 

How Terrorism Ends

The RAND corporation is tied closely (and in part funded) by the U.S. government and, in particular, the military, and large private organizations in the defense industry. This study deals with an analysis of how terrorism ends. See also the causes of suicide terrorism (most often, occupation).

By analyzing 648 groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, this monograph examines how terrorist groups end. Its purpose is to inform U.S. counterterrorist efforts by understanding how groups have ended in the past and to assess implications for countering al Qa’ida…

The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members. Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa’ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post–September 11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy…

Most terrorist groups that end because of politics seek narrow policy goals…

Against terrorist groups that cannot or will not make a transition to nonviolence, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy (40 percent)… Local police and intelligence agencies usually have a permanent presence in cities, towns, and villages; a better understanding of the threat environment in these areas; and better human intelligence.

…in 10 percent of the cases, terrorist groups ended because their goals were achieved, and military force led to the end of terrorist groups in 7 percent of the cases. Militaries tended to be most effective when used against terrorist groups engaged in an insurgency in which the groups were large, well armed, and well organized…

The evidence by 2008 suggested that the U.S. strategy was not successful in undermining al Qa’ida’s capabilities. Our assessment concludes that al Qa’ida remained a strong and competent organization…

Al Qa’ida has been involved in more terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, than it was during its prior history. These attacks spanned Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

how_terrorism_ends

There has been some discrepancy about the effectiveness of U.S. strategy against al Qa’ida. In 2007, for example, vice president Dick Cheney stated that the United States had “struck major blows against the al-Qaeda network that hit America.” Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf claimed that “Pakistan has shattered the al Qa’ida network in the region, severing its lateral and vertical linkages. It is now on the run and has ceased to exist as a homogenous force, capable of undertaking coordinated operations.” The National Security Strategy of the United States boldly stated, “The al-Qaida network has been significantly degraded.” These arguments were regularly repeated after 2001. “Al Qaeda’s Top Primed to Collapse, U.S. Says,” read a Washington Post headline two weeks after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, was arrested in March 2003.

Our analysis suggests that these claims were overstated. A growing body of work supports our conclusion. For example, the 2008 Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence reported that, “Using the sanctuary in the border area of Pakistan, al-Qa’ida has been able to maintain a cadre of skilled lieutenants capable of directing the organization’s operations around the world.” It also noted that “Al-Qa’ida is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the US: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack in the Homeland.” The 2007 national intelligence estimate, The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland, similarly noted that the main threat to the U.S. homeland “comes from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, especially al-Qa’ida, driven by their undiminished intent to attack the Homeland and a continued effort by these terrorist groups to adapt and improve their capabilities.” Bruce Riedel, who spent 29 years at the CIA, acknowledged that “Al Qaeda is a more dangerous enemy today than it has ever been before.”..

Military force is too blunt an instrument to defeat most terrorist groups. Military forces may be able to penetrate and garrison an area that terrorist groups frequent and, if well sustained, may temporarily reduce terrorist activity. But once the situation in an area becomes untenable for terrorists, they will simply transfer their activity to another area, and the problem remains unresolved. Terrorist groups generally fight wars of the weak. They do not put large, organized forces into the field, except when they engage in insurgencies…

Iraq was also helpful to al Qa’ida, since it established a foothold that it did not previously have. On the occasion of the second and third anniversaries of the September 11 attacks, the group’s second-incommand, Ayman al-Zawahiri provided the clearest explanation of al Qa’ida’s strategy in Iraq: He declared in September 2003, “We thank God for appeasing us with the dilemmas in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Americans are facing a delicate situation in both countries. If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.”

Such images as the Abu Ghraib prisoners were sent around the globe via Internet, satellite television, and cell phone. The war in Iraq also created a perception that Islam was under threat. Many Muslims accepted al Qa’ida’s argument that jihad was justified precisely because Islam was under attack by the United States. Consequently, fighting ground wars in the Muslim world appeared to inflame, not quell, Islamic terrorism…

Al Qa’ida was involved in more terrorist attacks in the first six years after September 11, 2001, than it had been during the previous six years. It averaged fewer than two attacks per year between 1995 and 2001, but it averaged more than ten attacks per year between 2002 and 2007… We excluded attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan…

As Figure 6.2 indicates, al Qa’ida continued to conduct attacks in several key locations, such as Saudi Arabia and Kenya. But it also expanded into North Africa (Tunisia and Algeria), Asia (Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan), the Middle East (Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt), and Europe (the United Kingdom). Most of these attacks were located in the area controlled by the caliphate, notably the Umayyad caliphate from 661 to 750 AD. This was part of al Qa’ida’s visionary pan-Islamic caliphate…

Public-opinion polls also showed notable support for al Qa’ida…

Despite initial success in capturing some al Qa’ida leaders, the United States failed to significantly weaken the organization. There was an increase in the number of attacks that involved al Qa’ida either directly or indirectly, an expansion of al Qa’ida’s geographic reach, and an evolution of its organizational structure.

alqaida_attacks

How Terrorist Groups End, The Rand Corporation, Jones and Libicki, 2008, http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf.

 

Limousine Liberalism and Teabagger Idiocy

Matt Taibbi from the Rolling Stones, of vampire squid fame, rips into both mainstream parties — Obama’s Limousine Liberals and the teabagger “idiots” of the Right — for letting the current Financial Regulatory “Reform” fall into the hands of Wall Street.

So on November 23rd, 2008, a deal is announced in which the government will bail out Rubin’s messes at Citigroup with a massive buffet of taxpayer-funded cash and guarantees. It is a terrible deal for the government, almost universally panned by all serious economists, an outrage to anyone who pays taxes. Under the deal, the bank gets $20 billion in cash, on top of the $25 billion it had already received just weeks before as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But that’s just the appetizer. The government also agrees to charge taxpayers for up to $277 billion in losses on troubled Citi assets, many of them those toxic CDOs that Rubin had pushed Citi to invest in. No Citi executives are replaced, and few restrictions are placed on their compensation. It’s the sweetheart deal of the century, putting generations of working-stiff taxpayers on the hook to pay off Bob Rubin’s fuck-up-rich tenure at Citi. “If you had any doubts at all about the primacy of Wall Street over Main Street,” former labor secretary Robert Reich declares when the bailout is announced, “your doubts should be laid to rest.”…

Despite being perhaps more responsible for last year’s crash than any other single living person — his colossally stupid decisions at both the highest levels of government and the management of a private financial superpower make him unique — Rubin was the man Barack Obama chose to build his White House around…

The significance of all of these appointments isn’t that the Wall Street types are now in a position to provide direct favors to their former employers. It’s that, with one or two exceptions, they collectively offer a microcosm of what the Democratic Party has come to stand for in the 21st century. Virtually all of the Rubinites brought in to manage the economy under Obama share the same fundamental political philosophy carefully articulated for years by the Hamilton Project: Expand the safety net to protect the poor, but let Wall Street do whatever it wants. “Bob Rubin, these guys, they’re classic limousine liberals,” says David Sirota, a former Democratic strategist. “These are basically people who have made shitloads of money in the speculative economy, but they want to call themselves good Democrats because they’re willing to give a little more to the poor. That’s the model for this Democratic Party: Let the rich do their thing, but give a fraction more to everyone else.”…

Because the way it works is that all of these great-sounding reforms get whittled down bit by bit as they move through the committee markup process, until finally there’s nothing left but the exceptions…

Republican teabaggers from all 50 states have showed up… They are here to protest Obama’s “socialist” health care bill… I approach a woman named Pat Defillipis from Toms River, New Jersey… I ask her if she’s aware that there’s a big hearing going on in the House today, where Barney Frank’s committee is marking up a bill to reform the financial regulatory system… “But what do we do about the rules governing Wall Street?”… She walks away. She doesn’t give a fuck. People like Pat aren’t aware of it, but they’re the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don’t hate him for any reasons that make sense. When it comes down to it, most of them hate the president for all the usual reasons they hate “liberals”… These are the kinds of voters whom Obama’s gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots. People whose votes depend not on whether the party in power delivers them jobs or protects them from economic villains, but on what cultural markers the candidate flashes on TV. Finance reform has become to Obama what Iraq War coffins were to Bush: something to be tucked safely out of sight…

There’s no other way to say it: Barack Obama, a once-in-a-generation political talent whose graceful conquest of America’s racial dragons en route to the White House inspired the entire world, has for some reason allowed his presidency to be hijacked by sniveling, low-rent shitheads. Instead of reining in Wall Street, Obama has allowed himself to be seduced by it, leaving even his erstwhile campaign adviser, ex-Fed chief Paul Volcker, concerned about a “moral hazard” creeping over his administration.

“The obvious danger is that with the passage of time, risk-taking will be encouraged and efforts at prudential restraint will be resisted,” Volcker told Congress in September, expressing concerns about all the regulatory loopholes in Frank’s bill. “Ultimately, the possibility of further crises — even greater crises — will increase.”

What’s most troubling is that we don’t know if Obama has changed, or if the influence of Wall Street is simply a fundamental and ineradicable element of our electoral system. What we do know is that Barack Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe it’s our fault, for thinking he was different.

Obama’s Big Sellout, Matt Taibbi, The Rolling Stones Magazine, December 9, 2009, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31234647/obamas_big_sellout.

 

Trade with Vietnam

Even though the United States-backed a 10 year Vietnam war which killed 2.5 million Vietnamese [hawaii.edu] and 58,220 Americans [osd.mil A] [osd.mil B], and wounded many more, the United States now peacefully trades and co-operates with Vietnam, still a Communist country, to the tune of about $12 billion per year:

vietnam_trade2

U.S. Census Bureau, Trade in Goods (Imports, Exports and Trade Balance) with Vietnam, http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5520.html (ODS).

Vietnam did not begin to emerge from international isolation until it withdrew its troops from Cambodia in 1989. Within months of the 1991 Paris Agreements, Vietnam established diplomatic and economic relations with ASEAN, as well as with most of the countries of Western Europe and Northeast Asia.

President Bill Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 11, 1995.

U.S. relations with Vietnam have become increasingly cooperative and broad-based in the years since political normalization. A series of bilateral summits have helped drive the improvement of ties, including President George W. Bush’s visit to Hanoi in November 2006, President Triet’s visit to Washington in June 2007, and Prime Minister Dung’s visit to Washington in June 2008.

In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam. In October 2008, the U.S. and Vietnam inaugurated annual political-military talks and policy planning talks to consult on regional security and strategic issues.

Since entry into force of the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement on December 10, 2001, increased trade between the U.S. and Vietnam, combined with large-scale U.S. investment in Vietnam, evidence the maturing U.S.-Vietnam economic relationship. In 2008, the United States exported $2.8 billion of goods to Vietnam and imported $12.9 billion of goods from Vietnam. Similarly, U.S. companies continue to invest directly in the Vietnamese economy. During 2008, the U.S. private sector committed $1.49 billion to Vietnam in foreign direct investment.

Vietnam, U.S. Department of State, October 2009, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4130.htm.

On democide in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia versus the war:

In total, this century’s battle killed in all its international and domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts is so far about 35,654,000.

Yet, even more unbelievable than these vast numbers killed in war during the lifetime of some still living, and largely unknown, is this shocking fact. This century’s total killed by absolutist governments already far exceeds that for all wars, domestic and international.

…It is sad that hundreds of thousands of people can be killed by governments with hardly an international murmur, while a war killing several thousand people can cause an immediate world outcry and global reaction. Simply contrast the international focus on the relatively minor Falkland Islands War of Britain and Argentina with the widescale lack of interest in Burundi’s killing or acquiescence in such killing of about 100,000 Hutu in 1972, of Indonesia slaughtering a likely 600,000 “communists” in 1965, and of Pakistan, in an initially well planned massacre, eventually killing from one to three million Bengalis in 1971.

A most noteworthy and still sensitive example of this double standard is the Vietnam War. The international community was outraged at the American attempt to militarily prevent North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam and ultimately Laos and Cambodia. “Stop the killing” was the cry, and eventually, the pressure of foreign and domestic opposition forced an American withdrawal. The overall number killed in the Vietnam War on all sides was about 1,216,000 people.

With the United States subsequently refusing them even modest military aid, South Vietnam was militarily defeated by the North and completely swallowed; and Cambodia was taken over by the communist Khmer Rouge, who in trying to recreate a primitive communist agricultural society slaughtered from one to three million Cambodians. If we take a middle two-million as the best estimate, then in four years the government of this small nation of seven million alone killed 64 percent more people than died in the ten-year Vietnam War.

Overall, the best estimate of those killed after the Vietnam War by the victorious communists in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is 2,270,000. Now totaling almost twice as many as died in the Vietnam War, this communist killing still continues.

War isn’t this Cenutry’s Biggest Killer, R.J. Rummel, Honolulu: Department of Political Science, July 7, 1986, http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/WSJ.ART.HTM.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but the scourge of dioxin contamination from a herbicide known as Agent Orange did not.

Between 1962 and 1970, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed across parts of Vietnam.

But since the end of the Vietnam War, Washington has denied any moral or legal responsibility for the toxic legacy said to have been caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Agent Orange was designed to defoliate the jungle and thus deny cover to Vietcong guerrillas.

It contained one of the most virulent poisons known to man, a strain of dioxin called TCCD.

First it killed the rainforest, stripping the jungle bare.

In time, the dioxin then spread its toxic reach to the food chain – which some say led to a proliferation of birth deformities.

In Vietnam, there are 150,000 other children like him, whose birth defects – according to Vietnamese Red Cross records – can be readily traced back to their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange during the war, or the consumption of dioxin-contaminated food and water since 1975.

VAVA estimates that three million Vietnamese were exposed to the chemical during the war, and at least one million suffer serious health problems today.

Dr Arnold Schecter, a leading expert in dioxin contamination in the US, sampled the soil there in 2003, and found it contained TCCD levels that were 180 million times above the safe level set by the US environmental protection agency.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3798581.stm