The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: December 2014 Page 1 of 2

Armed forces should not interfere in politcs

and that includes paramilitary forces.  The NYPD are definitely a paramilitary force.

This is “how to keep your democracy” 101, along with “don’t allow oligarchs”, and “don’t let money printing get of hand.”

Those in military or paramilitary forces who interfere with politics should be removed from their positions and relegated to civilian life, where they may demonstrate to their hearts content.

I note, also, that NYPD protesters somehow to don’t get beaten and arrested like other protests.

Courtesy of JustPlainDave, I present:

N.Y. ELN. LAW § 17-110 : NY Code – Section 17-110: Misdemeanors concerning police commissioners or officers or members of any police force
Any person who, being a police commissioner or any officer or member of any police force in this state: 1. Uses or threatens or attempts to use his official power or authority, in any manner, directly or indirectly, in aid of or against any political party, organization, association or society, or to control, affect, influence, reward or punish, the political adherence, affiliation, action, expression or opinion of any citizen; or 2. Appoints, promotes, transfers, retires or punishes an officer or member of a police force, or asks for or aids in the promotion, transfer, retirement or punishment of an officer or member of a police force because of the party adherence or affiliation of such officer or member, or for or on the request, direct or indirect, of any political party, organization, association or society, or of any officer, member of a committee or representative official or otherwise of any political party, organization, association or society; or 3. Solicits, collects or receives any money for, any political fund, club, association, society or committee, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Odin by Trixie

Photoshopped by Trixie

I hope all my readers have a good Christmas day, whether you celebrate or not.

For much of this blog’s tenure it existed only because I knew there were people who still wanted me to write, so y’all are why this blog is around.

In the New Year I’ll be picking up the pace.  That will include some theoretical pieces on technology, and probably some articles on rituals, social selection and so on.

Until then, enjoy your Christmas holidays. If you don’t get them, I hope you earn plenty of overtime.

Torture creates enemies and radicalizes people

This article is a must read:

And we’ve documented that torture creates more terrorists.   Indeed, Salon notes:

Among the most notable victims of torture was Sayeed Qutb, the founding father of modern political jihadism. His 1964 book, “Milestones,” describes a journey towards radicalization that included rape and torture, sometimes with dogs, in an Egyptian prison. He left jail burning with the determination to wage transnational jihad to destroy these regimes and their backers, calling for war against all those who used these methods against Muslims


“Milestones” remains one of the Arab world’s most influential books. Indeed, it was the lodestar of Al Qaeda leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahiri (who was also tortured in Egyptian jails) and the late Osama Bin Laden.

In other words, it was torture which drove the founder of modern jihad to terrorism in the first place.

The article goes on to list a variety of other, very important people, radicalized by torture.

I mean, if I were thrown in prison, tortured and raped, and got out, you can damn well bet when I got out I’d want the order that did that to me destroyed.

I will note also that drone warfare/assassination warfare does the same thing.  It is very rare that assassination programs do anything but bring more radical leaders to the fore. The only prominent exception I can think of is the probable assassination of Arafat.

The murder of two NY policemen in retaliation—

at least ostensibly for the police murders of Garner and Brown has ignited a frenzy.   The murderer, Brinsley, was a violent man who had committed other crimes.

I will simply note that such tragic events are the inevitable result of systemic injustice.  Those who wish less murders, should work for justice.

That includes police.



Dogs used to rape prisoners at Bagram?

I don’t know.  But Pinochet did the same (plus rats), it’s not without precedent.

I hope not:

The war veteran, who loathed manipulating Western politicians even as he defended tactics of collective punishment, continued his account: Afghan prisoners were tied face down on small chairs, Jack said. Then fighting dogs entered the torture chamber.

“If the prisoners did not say anything useful, each dog got to take a turn on them,” Jack told Todenhoefer. “After procedure like these, they confessed everything. They would have even said that they killed Kennedy without even knowing who he was.”

What should be done is to find out.

If true, everyone involved, from the President on down, and everyone who covered for them should be tried and locked up.  (I’d say hanged high, and would be willing to be hang man, but prison is a worse fate.)

That won’t happen, and we know it won’t happen.

What was I saying about depraved?

Exchange Rates 101

In light of the collapse of the Ruble I think it’s worth revisiting what controls exchange rates.

Supply and Demand.

Yeah, if you know something about the subject you’re probably shaking your head.

Supply and Demand doesn’t set prices in many cases in the way that an Economics 101 course tells you.

Such texts will say that the exchange rate is based on exports and imports.

For many countries, that isn’t true; or not all the time.  The US dollar can move up even when the trade balance is south (as it has been for decades now.)  The same is true of many other economies.

Britain hardly exports anything any more.  But people want to live in London.  Or they want the city to invest their money, or they want to buy art at Sothebys, or they just want a relatively safe place they can run to if the politics in their country go south.

People likewise want Manhattan real-estate; a US passport, and so on.  A vacation or home in Paris or the South of France.

They want to buy stocks in important companies which are defining the future, like Apple, or Tesla, or Google, even if those companies manufacture overseas.

They want money in China to take advantage of China’s high growth rate and returns, while Chinese want money out for diversification and to have a safe place to go if the politics turn against them.

People don’t want vacation homes in Russia, by and large.  They may want to take advantage of growth opportunities (which exist in certain sectors), but before the sanctions they were scared of corruption (with good reason) and post sanctions they are worried about getting returns out.  Since most of Russia’s exports are of hydrocarbons, and since people don’t want to move money into Rubles otherwise, the value of the Ruble in terms of other currencies moves up and down with the price of hydrocarbons.

There are other factors, for example if you offer high returns, that can matter (raising returns didn’t matter to Russia, because the potential value was swamped by fears of further ruble and oil devaluation.) Speculation of future gain or loss in the futures and options markets can raise or lower the value of your currency as well.  You can fix your currency and you can make it stick if your economy is strong enough in specific ways (mostly having to do with producing what you need).  China did this for years, and so have many other countries.  This can lead to black market currency markets and problems, but that can be better than the alternatives (as Russia may now be finding out.)

But if you float your currency, the bottom line is that excahnge rates (with a few exceptions) to rise and fall based on how much people want from  your country which they have to buy with your currency.

Collapse of oil prices and the Russian Ruble

These are the same thing.  Russia sells oil to the world, and their currency is based on the price of oil.  (It is for this same reason that the Canadian dollar has been sliding.)

Putin has been a competent leader for Russia in many ways, but the failure to diversify the economy from oil is his primary failure.  You might say “corruption”, but resource economies are almost always corrupt.  The only way to (somewhat) avoid it is to put the money away in a sovereign fund or the equivalent.

It is also important to not allow the currency to become a resource currency, because that crushes all other export businesses.

Why did the price of oil drop?  There are a lot of theories, from screw-ups in the futures market, to increased supply and reduced demand, to intent to destroy Russia.

What is interesting is that OPEC (meaning, in this case, Saudi Arabia) has refused to do anything to stabilize oil prices and prevent the collapse.

Saudi Arabia needs higher oil prices, they have no economy other than oil of significance, but they also have more ability to handle oil price collapses.  Saudi crude is cheap to produce, under $10/barrel.  The profit may be less, but they are making a profit.  A lot of Russian, American, Canadian and other oil is not profitable at low prices.  Letting oil prices be low for a year or two will probably help Saudia Arabia more in the long run.  Certainly it hurts their competitors more than it hurts them.

Many also believe that the US and Saudi Arabia are doing this deliberately to hurt Russia.

Of more fundamental interest is that China has been buying less and less commodities (not just oil, but metals like copper).  China is the most important economy in the world now for hard commodity prices.

The Ruble collapse is going to hurt a lot of people, most especially the Europeans.  Europe sells a lot of goods and services to Russia, and Russia is no longer going to be able to afford them.

For now, low oil prices will be good for the US, but the general commodity price drops are hammering many other countries, and that will lead to reduced demand globally.  This isn’t a good thing, however much many Americans are enjoying Russia (and Putin”s woes.)

I will note also that Russians seem to be blaming the West for the collapse of the Ruble.  That’s a good thing if they decide going supine will help them.

It’s not a good thing if they get angry about it and decide the West (meaning the US) is deliberately trying to destroy them.

America’s Depraved Leadership Has Created a Depraved Population

A majority of Americans thing torture is justified.  They are split on whether the Torture report should have been released.  And they think Torture prevented attacks.

According to the American people, torture is justified, and it works.

Every demographic has at least a plurality for torture: men and women, young and old, white and non-white.

The only good finding is that a plurality of Democrats believe torture was not justified, though, within the margin of error, they do believe it was helpful.

Before Bush, most Americans were against torture.  The endless drumbeat of propaganda and the need to justify what America does (America is good, therefore America does not do evil), has had its effect.

I will make an ethical judgment: people think torture is justified are bad people. Depraved people.  A society where a majority thinks it is justified is a depraved culture.  (And remember, 51% think it was justified, but 20% don’t have an opinion.  Only about a third of Americans are opposed.)

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