The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

My husband just stumbled across this extremely upsetting article on the BBC News website about 274 US troops whose remains were disposed of in a landfill between 2004 and 2008.  Yes, you read that correctly: a landfill.  Although this practice has been halted, the Dover Air Base mortuary was doing this with incinerated partial remains as recently as three years ago.  The Dover base is the main port of entry for most US troop remains re-entering the US.

The Washington Post broke this story about a month ago, and since investigations have been done, it seems that an additional 1,762 unidentified remains were also disposed of in this fashion.  A federal investigation has turned up gross mismanagement and disrespectful treatment of remains.  According to the Post article, many of the remains were incinerated along with other “medical waste” and transported to a Virginia landfill.

This story breaks my heart.  Can you imagine?  Your sister or husband or brother gets sent to Iraq, gets killed in combat, and the Air Force sends them home to be cremated and disposed of in a damn landfill?!  I ask, where is our government’s respect for what it claims to be its most honored citizens?  Why are some of them buried at Arlington and others sent to a dump?  That, right there, should tell us exactly how much the lives of citizens mean to the US government: roughly the same as a used Coke can.

Our vets deserve proper burials.  There is no excuse whatsoever for this lack of oversight by the Air Force.  What more proof do we need that our people are over there, dying in vain and getting no thanks at home?  It looks like there is a new Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but there is no honor guard and no salute, no adoring crowd, and no one to take pictures or tell their story.  This, my friends, is a real epitaph to war.

It seems our military and government have forgotten that all unknown soldiers deserve respect and dignity.


Bring the Bars Back Home

Gold bars, that is.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported back in August (I missed it) that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez made the decision to pull most, if not all, of Venezuela’s gold reserves back from Barclay’s London and the Bank for Internetional Settlements in Basel.  There has been some speculation as to what Chavez may be up to.  I say speculation since he isn’t exactly keen to share his train of thought with Washington.

There are a variety of reasons why Chavez may want to pull his gold back into Venezuela.  For one thing, China has extended a credit line to the Venezuelan government, and so far, they have been meeting that obligation with payments of oil.  China is the international equivalent of a Hummer H4 towing a motorhome – it sucks gas faster than a fat kid sucks down a milkshake.  Another reason may have to do with the fact that Venezuela is embroiled in 17 arbitrations with companies who lost out big when Chavez nationalized pretty much everything Venezuela had to nationalize.  There is, however, one more theory, and it has to do with Libya.

Chavez made a vague mention of “the powers of the North” that robbed Libya through sanctions and so on.  Remember that article I wrote about Qaddafi and his gold dinar scheme?  Is it possible that Chavez is alluding to what some have called the real reason for our invasion of Libya?  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that he has cast a dubious eye at the U.S. and its allies.  Of course, assuming for a moment that the gold and the oil was the real reason that we invaded Libya, Chavez might be onto something.  You don’t have to agree with everything that comes out of the man’s mouth, but if he is legitimately concerned about the same fate befalling him and his country, you can at least imagine what’s going through his head.

But back to the gold.  According to Zero Hedge, Chavez has gold deposited with JP Morgan, Barclay’s, and The Bank of Nova Scotia.  JP Morgan has reported almost exactly 10.6 tons of gold, which is exactly the amount that Chavez has recalled from storage in his bid to nationalize Venezuelan gold.  Great, so Chavez likes the stuff that glitters.  Who doesn’t?  What’s the problem?  The problem is that JP Morgan and others are using this gold to help back deposits.  Deposits which, in terms of the fact that they’re worthless paper money, are becoming more worthless by hour.  What is likely to happen is that gold prices are going to surge to new highs going into the new year, and the financial situation is going to become more precarious.  The race to find more gold is on.

This even took place all the way back in August, and at the time, JP Morgan was predicting that gold could potentially reach $2,500 per ounce.  I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as gold currently stands at around $1,725 per ounce and originally was not predicted to go higher than $1,850 in 2011.  I think that’s a more realistic expectation, but I certainly don’t look for the price of gold to go down anytime soon.  And it certainly seems to be worth noting that skeptics in the US aren’t the only ones who noticed something fishy about the whole Libya situation.  In a time when the economy is flagging and people and governments are ever-more desperate to keep the wheel grinding on for as long as possible, hang on to your gold.  Chavez might not be the most popular guy in America, but he’s not wrong about some things.  You know, the United States government has demanded that people hand over all of their bullion before.  From where do you think that old joke came about burying your valuables in the backyard?  It would appear, alas, that there’s more going on in the world than meets the eye, and I think we would all be wise to keep our eyes on our coin purses right now.

If you want to check out the sources, here they are:

“Venezuela Plans to Move Reserve Funds”The Wall Street Journal
“Chavez Emptying Bank of England Vault as Venezuela Brings Back Gold Hoard”Bloomberg
“Chavez Decrees Nationalization of Gold Industry Amid Surging Bullion Price”Bloomberg
“Perfect Storm Sees Gold and Silver Surge” – Gold Seek
“As Chavez Pulls Venezuela’s Gold from JP Morgan, is the Great Scramble for Physical Starting?”Zero Hedge

Happy Thanksgiving from The Lady!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish any and all of my readers, especially those back home, a very Happy Thanksgiving.  As I’m currently abroad, holidays can feel a bit lonesome, even with my husband and friends around.  Tomorrow is just another day for us.  However, I would like to take a minute and think about the things that really matter this Thanksgiving, as we all have a lot for which to be thankful.

I miss my family a lot when I’m overseas.  My family had a big Thanksgiving reunion last weekend, and it’s hard to be away when everyone is posting pictures and guilting you about not being there, though it certainly wasn’t because we didn’t want to be.  Fortunately, most everyone I know here has a good “friend family,” and we’re all able to get together in some way and celebrate together, even though we can’t be back home with our folks.  Friends can oftentimes be just as good as family.

I’m very thankful that I have a good job that has allowed my family to save money towards purchasing a house.  I’m thankful that we’re all healthy and have a nice, warm apartment to call home on this blustery night.  I know that there are a lot of people who aren’t even half as fortunate as we are, and it’s to those people who have lost their homes in the crisis, have found themselves without work, and who are making do with less this holiday season that I would like to extend sincerest wishes for a holiday that is nonetheless filled with love and hope.

Times are hard for a lot of people right now, and the future is uncertain for many.  We have the tools to make our lives better in the coming year, if only we use them to their best advantage.  So for all of you, wherever you find yourselves this Thanksgiving and on into the holidays, may your travels be safe, may the food be plentiful, may your friends and family be well, may Black Friday not result in any major injuries, and may you find many reasons to be thankful this holiday season.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I Don’t Even Love to Hate Him

I’m working on a more substantial post, but I was doing my evening watching of political videos that I might or might not enjoy, and then this honey came up.  It’s a Ron Paul interview done by none other than my (least) favorite spin doctor, Bill O’Reilly.

I can’t stand this a$$clown, if you’ll pardon my foul mouth.  Bill O’Reilly is a disrespectful, arrogant arse who can’t even be bothered to be courteous to the man he’s interviewing – a man who, might I politely add, is several points higher than O’Reilly on the IQ scale, not to mention infinitely more honest and well-mannered.  I realize that the mainstream media would love to convince middle America that Ron Paul is a total libertarian nutbag who is about as far from electable as you can get.  And unfortunately, as long as that’s what people keep hearing, that’s what they’ll believe, even if they like the message when they hear it.  The human brain only has to hear something three times before it unconsciously starts believing it.

But honestly, O’Reilly is too much.  He makes the comment that he doesn’t think Dr. Paul likes him all that much.  Frankly, I can’t imagine that anyone with ears would enjoy being talked down to like that.  I hardly think I would be able to keep my temper the way Dr. Paul manages to do.  I think I’d let O’Reilly have a taste of his own medicine, but I’m just not as mild-mannered as Ron Paul, for better or for worse.

In any case, if you love Ron Paul, hate Bill O’Reilly, or both (like me), you will find this video moderately to severely infuriating.  I wouldn’t recommend it if you have high blood pressure.

On the Lighter Side

I just found a funny comic about fiat currency over at one of my favorite sites, Married to the Sea.

This is a robbery

The Fascist Threat

I just found this excellent article at the Mises Institute website, “The Fascist Threat,” by Lew Rockwell.  It’s a good read and spot-on about a topic on which I’ve been doing some personal research for a year or two now.  Rockwell makes a good case that America demonstrates a shocking number of traits that are commonplace in fascist governments.  This is not the first time that I’ve read an argument like this, and I think it has merit and deserves some careful consideration.

Honestly, it’s tough for most people to even agree on exactly what fascism is.  Most people instantly think of Hitler and/or Mussolini.  For all practical purposes, fascism is a system wherein the government becomes the center of everything: the government chooses which produces to subsidize, which individuals or groups of individuals to legally plunder or subsidize, and uses a police state to enforce its rule.  The will of the people is of no consideration whatsoever.  What some people forget or fail to recognize is that, prior to WWII, fascism had its fair share of cheerleaders in the US.  Although I don’t think anyone in Washington would admit to liking fascist policies, they do practically, whether or not they do theoretically.

In any case, I think Rockwell’s article sums up the situation rather succinctly.  I always enjoy reading his articles, and I hope this one is illuminating for others, as well.


This isn’t the revolution I had in mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I always want to be enthusiastic about any protest movement, and I was about this one for about three minutes.  That’s a tragically short ideological honeymoon though, even by my low standards.

I’ve just read through the movement’s list of demands, and I have to say that I’m incredibly disappointed that I can’t find anything particularly with which to identify beyond the feeling of discontent that seems to be all-pervasive in America now.  Frankly, any movement that springs up at this juncture in history should at least be able to cough up a reasonable feeling of misery and depression.  I wish this group of protesters could do more than increase my fear that we are headed down the road to socialism on a mass scale.  Unfortunately, a somewhat large sector of the population seems to believe that socialism is the cure, rather than the cause, of our problems.

Honestly, this list of demands is nothing short of insane.  Raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour?  Free college education?  Has anyone ever bothered to point out that nothing is free, unless you find $10 on the sidewalk?  “Free college education” just means that you pay for it out of your taxes.  “Free health care” means that you and everyone else pay for it out of your taxes.

It’s not the I can’t understand why people would want these things, because that’s simply not true.  I can understand and appreciate it.  My real problem with anything that is called “free” because the government is taxing people to pay for it is that it’s not free.  This is what the late, great classical liberal theorist Frederic Bastiat called “legalized plunder”: that is, taking money away from people and deeming it legal and morally acceptable because it is done by a government authority when it would never be considered acceptable in private life.  Regardless of how one tries to argue otherwise, the fact of the matter is that anything you give to the government is given on the assumption that, should you attempt to avoid giving whatever it is that they want, that they can use physical force to take it.  If you believe in natural rights, then you are vehemently against a government that can use physical force to coerce you into doing something that you don’t want to do, such as give up your personal property, i.e. money.  For many libertarians, that argument by itself is enough to render most opposition philosophically null and void.

The other thing to take into consideration, with demands for free health care, drastically expanded infrastructure, and so on, is that it would require a massive expansion of the already bloated federal government.  Who do they think is going to implement these plans?  Believe me, if taxes went up enough to support all of this, it wouldn’t be the free market or business.  The simple fact of the matter is that any money that is removed from the economy by taxation is unavailable for use in other areas.  Why in the world would they want to raise taxes so that GE, Bank of America, and those others of their ilk can continue to receive tax refunds and bailouts – all of which are supported by the taxpayers?  It’s absolutely insane to think that further expansion of the government and tax hikes would do anything to solve these problems.  Corporate welfare, sponsored by a government that got too big for its britches a long time ago, is a large part of what has gotten us into this mess, and the very idea that further expansion of the government will do anything other than add jobs to the government is ludicrous.

Does anyone remember my article on the Broken Window Fallacy?  I’m not going to go back over the whole idea, but basically it says that if money is spent in one place, it can’t be spent somewhere else.  If a business or individual is forced to spend money on one thing, they are deprived of another benefit – one that may have been vital to the survival of the business.  I might add that in many cases, it is possible if not very likely that the market can provide whatever government benefit would be cheaper and more efficiently.  One of the first laws of bureaucracy is that it will gobble up exactly as much time and money as you allow it to – and probably some extra, just for fun.

Raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour.  Wow.  Minimum wage leads to a host of unsavory effects, such as: mechanization of jobs previously done by people; low-paying jobs remain an entry point for those with few marketable skills; businesses outsource because foreign workers can do the same job cheaper; foreign companies get the competitive advantage; small businesses are driven out of business, etc. The list is extensive.  What most people don’t realize is that minimum wage actually does the most harm to those whom it purports to protect: the poor.  In fact, the South, black male teenagers, and the unskilled are hurt more by minimum wage than anyone else.

Why is that?  Well, let’s say that I own a small business.  I have twenty employees who earn $5.15 an hour because that’s what I can afford to pay them.  Along comes a politician, who says, “I’ve raised the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour!  Everyone rejoice!  There’s now more money to help the poor get by!”  Well, the problem there, assuming that all 20 of my employees work a full eight hours a day, is the increase in cost for the business.  At $5.15 an hour, I spend $103 per hour, if all of those employees are working at the same time.  That cost jumps to $123 per hour – an increase of $160 per day.  Since most smaller businesses only make a modest profit to begin with, the only options available, if I want to meet the new minimum wage standard is to either: a. sell more of whatever I’m selling, which I would probably already be doing, if I could; b. raise prices, but demand curves are not vertical, or; c. let some people go.  See where this is going?

However, much like the author of “Occupy Wall Street: A Story Without Heroes” author Anthony Gregory, I am in support of open borders.  Think about it.  Politicians and business people are always rambling on about how good it is for goods to be able to circulate as much as possible for the betterment of the economy.  If it holds true for goods, why wouldn’t it be true for people, too?  As it stands right now, only the wealthy are really allowed freedom of movement throughout the world to seek jobs and homes in countries outside of the ones in which they were born.  It hardly seems fair to restrict a person’s movement just because he or she isn’t rich.

Here’s something else to think about: most immigrants, frankly, are a brave lot.  I speak this an expat living outside of the United States, and I’m not just tooting my own horn.  It takes a person with motivation and drive to move to a foreign country, attempt to get a job, learn the language, and adhere to the cultural norms.  Immigrants provide diversity and culture to societies.  Also to be considered is that people from different backgrounds and cultures view the world in different ways.  Perhaps by working together, we can innovate and create even better and faster than before!  And I don’t mean this to be limited to people who work in knowledge-based jobs; anyone should be able to ply his or her trade wherever they want.  Within the US, we encourage movement between states to take jobs in sectors that are showing growth.  Why wouldn’t this work on a global scale?

I feel like I could write on and on about the topic of Occupy Wall Street, but I think I’m losing focus.  Ultimately, I feel that the movement is seriously misguided and offers no real solutions to the path down which we are currently traveling.  I find it impossible to believe that the solution to a government that is an ineffective waste of money and resources on a mass scale will be made better by expanding it and calling for it to further legislate.  Even Obama himself made the (rather large) concession that further regulation of the economy at this point would result in job loss – job loss that we can hardly afford.

It isn’t that I am not frustrated with the economic and political situation in America, because I am.  I think most Americans are fed up with what has been happening for the past few years.  Unfortunately, it seems as though we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  The Federal Reserve’s answer to our economic woes has been to inflate the currency to levels not seen since the post-war era.  That hasn’t worked.  New Deal lawmakers doubled the government spending in the 1930s, and yet the country was worse off by the end of the decade than it had been in the beginning; it required a war to get us out of that hole again.  Are we really willing to travel down the same route again?

If people want to go out and protest something, protest the Federal Reserve.  Protest the fact that the government wants to strip away the gun rights that will protect you from the police you fear so much.  Protest the fact that for every $1 the government hikes taxes, the economy loses $1.10 and our taxes are going up.  But for God’s sake, don’t go to a protest pretending to be revolutionary and then offer nothing but more of the same.  I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that the last thing I want is more of that.

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