A Chilling Effect: Your privacy is worthless; Obama’s privacy is priceless

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (8/5/2010), (8/6/2010)

Unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, enormous expansion of federal health regulations, indefinite detention, targeted killing of American citizens, bungled government responses to environmental disasters, warrantless surveillance and bailouts galore. Are we sure George W. Bush is no longer president?

Barack Obama’s administration now wants to be able to see the headers on all e-mails that you send, even if there is no probable cause, no warrant, no judicial oversight and no disclosure to you or anyone else that the FBI even peeked. As far as I can tell, Obama’s bill modifying the Electronic Communications Privacy Act would allow the FBI to secretly track information in the from, to, carbon copy and subject fields, among others. The bill would likely also include the history of web sites you visit.

Financial Self-Regulation: Nothing beats writing your own laws

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (7/22/2010)

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 is brought to you by the same people who called a curtailment of civil liberties, the Patriot Act, and the imposition of new taxes and substantially no new services for at least half a decade, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It lives up to Congress’ history of misnomers. The act will destabilize the American financial system. It was written by the people it intends to regulate. The same big bankers who got bailed out essentially wrote their own rules going forward. Do you think they wrote those rules to benefit you? (Do you think the health care companies that wrote the health care bill wrote it to benefit you?)

You weren’t under the illusion that honorable, vote-fearing politicians wrote every word of every bill, were you? They haven’t even read it, let alone written it.

The Ultimate Currency: Is it time for digital-only dollars?

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (7/8/2010), Digital Gold Currency Magazine (11/2010, pp.20-21)

The nice thing about gold as a currency is that no government can easily and capriciously tax it. Paper money is easy: just print more and spend it however you want. But gold is relatively stable, doesn’t go bad, and can be stored easily.

But you can’t fit it in your wallet. You can’t easily break it into smaller pieces or combine pieces to make larger ones. Gold is not the ultimate currency.

Currency backed by gold is more mobile, but you have to trust someone to exchange your paper or digital claim for actual gold. And if that someone happens to be a government, that trust is guaranteed to be betrayed.

We are living now in an information-driven world. Perhaps currency can be encoded as bits. Even a decade ago, this would have sounded impossible. But because of the widespread dissemination of powerful computing and interconnected networking, some new approaches have recently been developed.

Have We Lost the Jihad?

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (6/24/2010)

I was wondering how would we know if we won in Iraq and Afghanistan and couldn't answer the question, so I wondered what it would mean to lose.

There are two forms of jihad. The greater jihad is the internal struggle with one’s soul, but the one we are most familiar with is the lesser jihad, the holy war.

The idea of a holy war was first promoted by Islamic military leader Saladin who needed a way to rally his troops to fight to their deaths to retake the lands lost to the Crusades. Jihad was a tool of propaganda, and it worked. Saladin eventually ruled over a vast Middle Eastern empire.

Though much of his original views on jihad were later rejected, the origins seep through to today. Historian and sociologist Maxime Rodinson, writing in 2002, concluded that jihad is still a “propagandistic device which, as need be, resorts to armed struggle.”

Viewpoint: An Experiment in Securities Risk

Originally Published In:

American Banker (6/4/2010)

Whatever new regulation on risk is ultimately imposed on financial entities, is a moot point. With the exception of two unlikely approaches, the result will always be increased risk. Even worse, the result will be increased systemic risk, meaning we will continue to face a series of crises.

Listen Up, Chris Dodd: Research that proves all the senator’s assumptions about financial regulation are wrong

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (5/27/2010)

The Senate passed a 1,500-page financial regulation bill last week after a year of rigorous bipartisan discussions over how, exactly, to get more of your money and put America at greater risk while diverting all blame away from the politicians. Outgoing Connecticut Senator and Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd considered as his personal triumph not just the passage of this bill, but the way it was done — with “full-throated, engaging, vibrant debate on a critical issue in front of our country.”

Election of the Body Snatchers! A proposed New York State law could tighten government’s grip on your body

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (5/13/2010)

Who owns your body? Those organs sloshing around inside you — who do they belong to?

The War on Risk: Obama wants to end chance itself

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (4/29/2010), (4/30/2010)

Banned Dice

America’s wars have become increasingly abstract. First we fought the British. Then we fought ourselves. Then the Germans. Then the Germans and Japanese. Then the Koreans and Vietnamese. Somewhere along the way we found non-human enemies. We started fighting drugs. At least that was still alive, albeit in the vegetable kingdom. But then we declared war on poverty, an economic condition. Then terror, a contingent emotion. Now we have declared our final war against risk itself.

Bloody Taxes: If you support forced redistribution of wealth, you should support forced redistribution of blood

Originally Published In:

Fairfield County Weekly (4/15/2010)

Redistribution means taking from some to give to others. But from whom, and in what proportion? And to whom, and in what proportion? How much? These are incredibly obvious questions but nobody asks them, let alone answer them. Why not? For two different reasons.

Those who support redistribution tend not to ask or allow others to ask basic questions about it, out of feelings of guilt and shame. Redistribution needs to be believed in and if you question it in any way there must be something wrong with you. 

Waiting for Sananda: The government is one giant cult

Originally Published In:

Fairfied County Weekly (3/31/2010), (4/9/2010)

In 1954, Dorothy Martin, a Chicago housewife, announced she had been receiving messages from outer space telling her the Western Hemisphere would be destroyed by a flood on Dec. 21. The messages came from a being called Sananda, who assured Dorothy the true believers would be rescued by a flying saucer just before midnight the night before the flood. Dorothy first tried to get the word out to save as many people as possible, but in September, her small group, called the “Seekers,” shut down all outside communications.

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