Monthly Archives: August 2008

Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech—233 year and 5 months ago—lest we forget, lest we forget….

St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia
March 23, 1775.

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Trillions of Dollars of Mortgage-Backed Securities Waiting to Unravel Worldwide: they’re 80% illegal, so “let ’em all rip;” sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omlette, and if the eggs are rotten, throw them out….

The New York Times

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August 17, 2008

Dr. Doom

 

 

On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

But Roubini was soon vindicated. In the year that followed, subprime lenders began entering bankruptcy, hedge funds began going under and the stock market plunged. There was declining employment, a deteriorating dollar, ever-increasing evidence of a huge housing bust and a growing air of panic in financial markets as the credit crisis deepened. By late summer, the Federal Reserve was rushing to the rescue, making the first of many unorthodox interventions in the economy, including cutting the lending rate by 50 basis points and buying up tens of billions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities. When Roubini returned to the I.M.F. last September, he delivered a second talk, predicting a growing crisis of solvency that would infect every sector of the financial system. This time, no one laughed. “He sounded like a madman in 2006,” recalls the I.M.F. economist Prakash Loungani, who invited Roubini on both occasions. “He was a prophet when he returned in 2007.”

Over the past year, whenever optimists have declared the worst of the economic crisis behind us, Roubini has countered with steadfast pessimism. In February, when the conventional wisdom held that the venerable investment firms of Wall Street would weather the crisis, Roubini warned that one or more of them would go “belly up” — and six weeks later, Bear Stearns collapsed. Following the Fed’s further extraordinary actions in the spring — including making lines of credit available to selected investment banks and brokerage houses — many economists made note of the ensuing economic rally and proclaimed the credit crisis over and a recession averted. Roubini, who dismissed the rally as nothing more than a “delusional complacency” encouraged by a “bunch of self-serving spinmasters,” stuck to his script of “nightmare” events: waves of corporate bankrupticies, collapses in markets like commercial real estate and municipal bonds and, most alarming, the possible bankruptcy of a large regional or national bank that would trigger a panic by depositors. Not all of these developments have come to pass (and perhaps never will), but the demise last month of the California bank IndyMac — one of the largest such failures in U.S. history — drew only more attention to Roubini’s seeming prescience.

As a result, Roubini, a respected but formerly obscure academic, has become a major figure in the public debate about the economy: the seer who saw it coming. He has been summoned to speak before Congress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum at Davos. He is now a sought-after adviser, spending much of his time shuttling between meetings with central bank governors and finance ministers in Europe and Asia. Though he continues to issue colorful doomsday prophecies of a decidedly nonmainstream sort — especially on his popular and polemical blog, where he offers visions of “equity market slaughter” and the “Coming Systemic Bust of the U.S. Banking System” — the mainstream economic establishment appears to be moving closer, however fitfully, to his way of seeing things. “I have in the last few months become more pessimistic than the consensus,” the former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers told me earlier this year. “Certainly, Nouriel’s writings have been a contributor to that.”

On a cold and dreary day last winter, I met Roubini over lunch in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. “I’m not a pessimist by nature,” he insisted. “I’m not someone who sees things in a bleak way.” Just looking at him, I found the assertion hard to credit. With a dour manner and an aura of gloom about him, Roubini gives the impression of being permanently pained, as if the burden of what he knows is almost too much for him to bear. He rarely smiles, and when he does, his face, topped by an unruly mop of brown hair, contorts into something more closely resembling a grimace.

When I pressed him on his claim that he wasn’t pessimistic, he paused for a moment and then relented a little. “I have more concerns about potential risks and vulnerabilities than most people,” he said, with glum understatement. But these concerns, he argued, make him more of a realist than a pessimist and put him in the role of the cleareyed outsider — unsettling complacency and puncturing pieties.

Roubini, who is 50, has been an outsider his entire life. He was born in Istanbul, the child of Iranian Jews, and his family moved to Tehran when he was 2, then to Tel Aviv and finally to Italy, where he grew up and attended college. He moved to the United States to pursue his doctorate in international economics at Harvard. Along the way he became fluent in Farsi, Hebrew, Italian and English. His accent, an inimitable polyglot growl, radiates a weariness that comes with being what he calls a “global nomad.”

As a graduate student at Harvard, Roubini was an unusual talent, according to his adviser, the Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs. He was as comfortable in the world of arcane mathematics as he was studying political and economic institutions. “It’s a mix of skills that rarely comes packaged in one person,” Sachs told me. After completing his Ph.D. in 1988, Roubini joined the economics department at Yale, where he first met and began sharing ideas with Robert Shiller, the economist now known for his prescient warnings about the 1990s tech bubble.

The ’90s were an eventful time for an international economist like Roubini. Throughout the decade, one emerging economy after another was beset by crisis, beginning with Mexico’s in 1994. Panics swept Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and Korea, in 1997 and 1998. The economies of Brazil and Russia imploded in 1998. Argentina’s followed in 2000. Roubini began studying these countries and soon identified what he saw as their common weaknesses. On the eve of the crises that befell them, he noticed, most had huge current-account deficits (meaning, basically, that they spent far more than they made), and they typically financed these deficits by borrowing from abroad in ways that exposed them to the national equivalent of bank runs. Most of these countries also had poorly regulated banking systems plagued by excessive borrowing and reckless lending. Corporate governance was often weak, with cronyism in abundance.

Roubini’s work was distinguished not only by his conclusions but also by his approach. By making extensive use of transnational comparisons and historical analogies, he was employing a subjective, nontechnical framework, the sort embraced by popular economists like the Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz in order to reach a nonacademic audience. Roubini takes pains to note that he remains a rigorous scholarly economist — “When I weigh evidence,” he told me, “I’m drawing on 20 years of accumulated experience using models” — but his approach is not the contemporary scholarly ideal in which an economist builds a model in order to constrain his subjective impressions and abide by a discrete set of data. As Shiller told me, “Nouriel has a different way of seeing things than most economists: he gets into everything.”

Roubini likens his style to that of a policy maker like Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman who was said (perhaps apocryphally) to pore over vast quantities of technical economic data while sitting in the bathtub, looking to sniff out where the economy was headed. Roubini also cites, as a more ideologically congenial example, the sweeping, cosmopolitan approach of the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes, whom Roubini, with only slight exaggeration, calls “the most brilliant economist who never wrote down an equation.” The book that Roubini ultimately wrote (with the economist Brad Setser) on the emerging market crises, “Bailouts or Bail-Ins?” contains not a single equation in its 400-plus pages.

After analyzing the markets that collapsed in the ’90s, Roubini set out to determine which country’s economy would be the next to succumb to the same pressures. His surprising answer: the United States’. “The United States,” Roubini remembers thinking, “looked like the biggest emerging market of all.” Of course, the United States wasn’t an emerging market; it was (and still is) the largest economy in the world. But Roubini was unnerved by what he saw in the U.S. economy, in particular its 2004 current-account deficit of $600 billion. He began writing extensively about the dangers of that deficit and then branched out, researching the various effects of the credit boom — including the biggest housing bubble in the nation’s history — that began after the Federal Reserve cut rates to close to zero in 2003. Roubini became convinced that the housing bubble was going to pop.

By late 2004 he had started to write about a “nightmare hard landing scenario for the United States.” He predicted that foreign investors would stop financing the fiscal and current-account deficit and abandon the dollar, wreaking havoc on the economy. He said that these problems, which he called the “twin financial train wrecks,” might manifest themselves in 2005 or, at the latest, 2006. “You have been warned here first,” he wrote ominously on his blog. But by the end of 2006, the train wrecks hadn’t occurred.

Recessions are signal events in any modern economy. And yet remarkably, the profession of economics is quite bad at predicting them. A recent study looked at “consensus forecasts” (the predictions of large groups of economists) that were made in advance of 60 different national recessions that hit around the world in the ’90s: in 97 percent of the cases, the study found, the economists failed to predict the coming contraction a year in advance. On those rare occasions when economists did successfully predict recessions, they significantly underestimated the severity of the downturns. Worse, many of the economists failed to anticipate recessions that occurred as soon as two months later.

The dismal science, it seems, is an optimistic profession. Many economists, Roubini among them, argue that some of the optimism is built into the very machinery, the mathematics, of modern economic theory. Econometric models typically rely on the assumption that the near future is likely to be similar to the recent past, and thus it is rare that the models anticipate breaks in the economy. And if the models can’t foresee a relatively minor break like a recession, they have even more trouble modeling and predicting a major rupture like a full-blown financial crisis. Only a handful of 20th-century economists have even bothered to study financial panics. (The most notable example is probably the late economist Hyman Minksy, of whom Roubini is an avid reader.) “These are things most economists barely understand,” Roubini told me. “We’re in uncharted territory where standard economic theory isn’t helpful.”

True though this may be, Roubini’s critics do not agree that his approach is any more accurate. Anirvan Banerji, the economist who challenged Roubini’s first I.M.F. talk, points out that Roubini has been peddling pessimism for years; Banerji contends that Roubini’s apparent foresight is nothing more than an unhappy coincidence of events. “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day,” he told me. “The justification for his bearish call has evolved over the years,” Banerji went on, ticking off the different reasons that Roubini has used to justify his predictions of recessions and crises: rising trade deficits, exploding current-account deficits, Hurricane Katrina, soaring oil prices. All of Roubini’s predictions, Banerji observed, have been based on analogies with past experience. “This forecasting by analogy is a tempting thing to do,” he said. “But you have to pick the right analogy. The danger of this more subjective approach is that instead of letting the objective facts shape your views, you will choose the facts that confirm your existing views.”

Kenneth Rogoff, an economist at Harvard who has known Roubini for decades, told me that he sees great value in Roubini’s willingness to entertain possible situations that are far outside the consensus view of most economists. “If you’re sitting around at the European Central Bank,” he said, “and you’re asking what’s the worst thing that could happen, the first thing people will say is, ‘Let’s see what Nouriel says.’ ” But Rogoff cautioned against equating that skill with forecasting. Roubini, in other words, might be the kind of economist you want to consult about the possibility of the collapse of the municipal-bond market, but he is not necessarily the kind you ask to predict, say, the rise in global demand for paper clips.

His defenders contend that Roubini is not unduly pessimistic. Jeffrey Sachs, his former adviser, told me that “if the underlying conditions call for optimism, Nouriel would be optimistic.” And to be sure, Roubini is capable of being optimistic — or at least of steering clear of absolute worst-case prognostications. He agrees, for example, with the conventional economic wisdom that oil will drop below $100 a barrel in the coming months as global demand weakens. “I’m not comfortable saying that we’re going to end up in the Great Depression,” he told me. “I’m a reasonable person.”

What economic developments does Roubini see on the horizon? And what does he think we should do about them? The first step, he told me in a recent conversation, is to acknowledge the extent of the problem. “We are in a recession, and denying it is nonsense,” he said. When Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, announced last month that the nation had “avoided a recession,” Roubini was incredulous. For months, he has been predicting that the United States will suffer through an 18-month recession that will eventually rank as the “worst since the Great Depression.” Though he is confident that the economy will enter a technical recovery toward the end of next year, he says that job losses, corporate bankruptcies and other drags on growth will continue to take a toll for years.

Roubini has counseled various policy makers, including Federal Reserve governors and senior Treasury Department officials, to mount an aggressive response to the crisis. He applauded when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to 2 percent from 5.25 percent beginning last summer. He also supported the Fed’s willingness to engineer a takeover of Bear Stearns. Roubini argues that the Fed’s actions averted catastrophe, though he says he believes that future bailouts should focus on mortgage owners, not investors. Accordingly, he sees the choice facing the United States as stark but simple: either the government backs up a trillion-plus dollars’ worth of high-risk mortgages (in exchange for the lenders’ agreement to reduce monthly mortgage payments), or the banks and other institutions holding those mortgages — or the complex securities derived from them — go under. “You either nationalize the banks or you nationalize the mortgages,” he said. “Otherwise, they’re all toast.”

For months Roubini has been arguing that the true cost of the housing crisis will not be a mere $300 billion — the amount allowed for by the housing legislation sponsored by Representative Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd — but something between a trillion and a trillion and a half dollars. But most important, in Roubini’s opinion, is to realize that the problem is deeper than the housing crisis. “Reckless people have deluded themselves that this was a subprime crisis,” he told me. “But we have problems with credit-card debt, student-loan debt, auto loans, commercial real estate loans, home-equity loans, corporate debt and loans that financed leveraged buyouts.” All of these forms of debt, he argues, suffer from some or all of the same traits that first surfaced in the housing market: shoddy underwriting, securitization, negligence on the part of the credit-rating agencies and lax government oversight. “We have a subprime financial system,” he said, “not a subprime mortgage market.”

Roubini argues that most of the losses from this bad debt have yet to be written off, and the toll from bad commercial real estate loans alone may help send hundreds of local banks into the arms of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “A good third of the regional banks won’t make it,” he predicted. In turn, these bailouts will add hundreds of billions of dollars to an already gargantuan federal debt, and someone, somewhere, is going to have to finance that debt, along with all the other debt accumulated by consumers and corporations. “Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the gulf states,” Roubini noted. “These are rivals, not allies.”

The United States, Roubini went on, will likely muddle through the crisis but will emerge from it a different nation, with a different place in the world. “Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers,” he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh. “This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire.”

Stephen Mihm, an assistant professor of economic history at the University of Georgia, is the author of “A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men and the Making of the United States.” His last feature article for the magazine was about North Korean counterfeiting.

A Warning For America from South Africa (still the most developed and advanced nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, possibly in all of Africa)

A Warning For America
From South Africa

By Gemma Meyer

People used to say that South Africa was 20 years behind the rest of the Western world. Television, for example, came late to South Africa (but so did pornography and the gay rights movement).   Today, however, South Africa may be the grim model of the future Western world, for events in America reveal trends chillingly similar to those that destroyed our country.

America’s structures are Western. Your Congress, your lobbying groups, your free speech, and the way ordinary Americans either get involved or ignore politics are peculiarly Western, not the way most of the world operates. But the fact that only about a third of Americans deem it important to vote is horrifying in light of how close you are to losing your Western character.

Writing letters to the press, manning stands at county fairs, hosting fund-raising dinners, attending rallies, setting up conferences, writing your Congressman – that is what you know, and what you are comfortable with. Those are the political methods you’ve created for yourselves to keep your country on track and to ensure political accountability.

But woe to you if – or more likely, when – the rules change. White Americans may soon find themselves unable or unwilling to stand up to challenge the new political methods that will be the inevitable result of the ethnic metamorphosis now taking place in America. Unable to cope with the new rules of the game – violence, mob riots, intimidation through accusations of racism, demands for proportionality based on racial numbers, and all the other social and political weapons used by the have-nots to bludgeon treasure and power from the haves – Americans, like others before them, will no doubt cave in. They will compromise away their independence and ultimately their way of life.

That is exactly what happened in South Africa. I know, because I was there and I saw it happen.   Faced with revolution in the streets, strikes, civil unrest and the sheer terror and murder practiced by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), the white government simply capitulated in order to achieve “peace.”   Westerners need peace. They need order and stability. They are builders and planners. But what we got was the peace of the grave for our society.

The Third World is different – different peoples with different pasts and different cultures. Yet Westerners continue to mistake the psychology of the Third World and its peoples. Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe are perfect examples of those mistakes. Sierra Leone is in perpetual civil war, and Zimbabwe – once the thriving, stable Rhodesia – is looting the very people (the white men) who feed the country. Yet Westerners do not admit that the same kind of savagery could come to America when enough immigrants of the right type assert themselves. The fact is, Americans are sitting ducks for Third World exploitation of the Western conscience of compassion.

Those in the West who forced South Africa to surrender to the ANC and its leaders did not consider Africa to be the dangerous, corrupt, and savage place it is now in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Those Western politicians now have a similar problem looming on their own doorsteps: the demand for power and treasure from the non-Western peoples inside the realm.

It is already too late for South Africa, but not for America if enough people strengthen their spine and take on the race terrorists, the armies of the “politically correct” and, most dangerous of all, the craven politicians who believe “compassionate conservatism” will buy them a few more votes, a few more days of peace.   White South Africans, you should remember, have been in that part of Africa for the same amount of time whites have inhabited North America; yet ultimately South Africans voted for their own suicide. We are not so very different from you.

We lost our country through skillful propaganda, pressure from abroad (not least from the U.S.A.), unrelenting charges of “oppression” and “racism,” and the shrewd assessment by African tyrants that the white man has many Achilles’ heels, the most significant of which are his compassion, his belief in the “equality of man,” and his “love your neighbor” philosophy – none of which are part of the Third World’s history.

The mainline churches played a big role in the demise of Western influence throughout Africa, too; especially in South Africa. Today’s tyrants were yesterday’s mission-school proteges. Many dictators in Africa were men of the cloth. They knew their clerical collars would deflect criticism and obfuscate their real aims, which had nothing whatever to do with the “brotherhood of man.”

Other tyrants, like the infamous Idi Amin, were trained and schooled by the whites themselves, at Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. After receiving the best from the West, they unleashed a resentful bloodlust against their benefactors.   From what I have seen and read thus far, I fear Americans will capitulate just as we did. Americans are, generally, a soft lot. They don’t want to quarrel or obstruct the claims of those who believe they were wronged. They like peace and quiet, and they want to compromise and be nice.

A television program that aired in South Africa showed a town meeting somewhere in Southern California where people met to complain about falling standards in the schools. Whites who politely spoke at the meeting clearly resented the influx of Mexican immigrants into their community. When a handful of Chicanos at the back of the hall shouted and waved their hands at them, the whites simply shrunk back into their seats rather than tell the noisemakers to shut up. They didn’t want to quarrel.

In America, the courts are still the final arbiters of society’s laws. But what will happen when your future majority refuses to abide by court rulings – as in Zimbabwe. What will happen when the new majority says the judges are racists, and that they refuse to acknowledge “white man’s justice”? What will happen when the courts are filled with their people, or their sympathizers? In California, Proposition 187 has already been overturned.

What will you do when the future non-white majority decides to change the names of streets and cities? What will you do when they no longer want to use money that carries the portraits of old, dead white “racists” and slave owners? Will you cave in, like you did on flying the Confederate flag? What about the national anthem? Your official language?   Don’t laugh. When the “majority” took over in South Africa, the first targets were our national symbols.

In another generation, America may well face what Africa is now experiencing – invasions of private land by the “have-nots;” the decline in health care quality; roads and buildings in disrepair; the banishment of your history from the education of the young; the revolutionization of your justice system.   In South Africa today, only 9 percent of murderers end up in jail. Court dockets are regularly purchased and simply disappear. Magistrates can be bribed as can the prison authorities, making escapes commonplace. Vehicle and airplane licenses are regularly purchased, and forged school and university certificates are routine.

What would you think of the ritual slaughter of animals in your neighbor’s backyard? How do you clean up the blood and entrails that litter your suburban streets? How do you feel about the practice of witchcraft, in which the parts of young girls and boys are needed for “medicinal” purposes? How do you react to the burning of witches?

Don’t laugh. All that is quite common in South Africa today.   Don’t imagine that government officials caught with their fingers in the till will be punished. Excuses – like the need to overcome generations of white racism – will be found to exonerate the guilty.In fact, known criminals will be voted into office because of a racial solidarity among the majority that doesn’t exist among the whites. When Ian Smith of the old Rhodesia tried to stand up to the world, white South African politicians were among the Westerners pressuring him to surrender.

When Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe murders his political opponents, ignores unfavorable court decisions, terrorizes the population and siphons off millions from the state treasury for himself and his friends, South Africa’s new President Thabo Mbeki holds his hand and declares his support. That just happened a few weeks ago.

Your tax dollars will go to those who don’t earn and don’t pay. In South Africa, organizations that used to have access to state funds such as old age homes, the arts, and veterans’ services, are simply abandoned.   What will happen is that Western structures in America will be either destroyed from without, or transformed from within, used to suit the goals of the new rulers. And they will reign either through terror, as in Zimbabwe today, or exert other corrupt pressures to obtain, or buy votes. Once power is in the hands of aliens, don’t expect loyalty or devotion to principle from those whose jobs are at stake. One of the most surprising and tragic components of the disaster in South Africa is how many previously anti-ANC whites simply moved to the other side.

Once you lose social, cultural, and political dominance, there is no getting it back again.Unfortunately, your habits and values work against you. You cannot fight terror and street mobs with letters to your Congressmen. You cannot fight accusations of racism with prayer meetings. You cannot appeal to the goodness of your fellow man when the fellow man despises you for your weaknesses and hacks off the arms and legs of his political opponents.

To survive, Americans must never lose the power they now enjoy to people from alien cultures. Above all, don’t put yourselves to the test of fighting only when your backs are against the wall. You will probably fail.   Millions around the world want your good life. But make no mistake: They care not for the high-minded ideals of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and your Constitution. What they want are your posessions, your power, and your status.   And they already know that their allies among you, the “human rights activists,” the skillful lawyers and the left-wing politicians will fight for them, and not for you. They will exploit your compassion and your Christian charity, and your good will.

They have studied you, Mr. and Mrs. America, and they know your weaknesses well.   They know what to do.   Do you?

(Gemma Meyer is the pseudonym of a South African journalist. She and her husband, a former conservative member of parliament, still reside in South Africa.)

REPUBLICAN CRIMES, REPUBLICAN CRIMINAL INTENT, AND THE POLITICAL AGENDA BEHIND IT ALL

Now, culminating the 8 year tragic-comedy, they “bail out” the totally fraudulent securitized mortgage industry, and how?  by spreading the funny money around a little farther….why?  Because this is George Bush’s last chance to avoid post-2nd term jailtime or oblivion by spreading around some money.  The mechanics of the bailout are quite uncertain—where is all this money going to go (all $850 billion?).  If it’s NOT going to homeowners threatened with foreclosure, where is it going?  Why is there a mortgage crisis at all?  If the system were working properly, “lenders” or “mortgage holders” could and would be relatively happy to end up with ownership of homes, right?  And if there were a gap of 3-6 months in re-renting a house or condominium, why should anyone care?  It is because the holders of the notes in securitized bundles are NOT able to foreclose, just as the mortgagees cannot negotiate with the real holders.  There is a gap, and this is the fraud: the gap is created by money-changing for no purpose.  There is no connection between buying a securitized mortgage and receiving money from the sale of property—the entire American economic system since George W. Bush’s daddy came to power has basically been one thing and one thing only: “printing money while on cocaine.”

One could almost believe, indeed, that the Republican party’s rock bottom rot over the past eight years was intended to make all kinds of perverse corruption more palatable, only because a large plurality, if not a majority of the American people believe that ANYTHING has to be better than what George W. Bush has given us.  There has never been a time since July 1, 1776, when it was harder to be “proud to be an American, [or to feel that] where at least I know I’m free.”  On the contrary, in the most punitively incarcerating nation in the world, we lock up 1% of our population in jail only to let the entire government be run by criminals.  And Obama is just another member of the super-elite criminal oligarchy—that’s why he’s got such a good chance of being President.  Ten years ago I would have said that McCain was NOT an insider, but he’s clearly sold out.  Ron Paul didn’t sell out and so they froze his votes at basically incredibly low, and incredibly consistently low, levels everywhere…. Oh, Cry, the Beloved Country!!!!  I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. 


 

 How conservative greed and corruption destroyed American politics

 

 

Abramoff, DeLay, Norquist, oh my! The spectacular misrule of the GOP was not an accident.

By Thomas Frank

Aug. 07, 2008 | Washington is the city where the scandals happen. Every American knows this, but we also believe, if only vaguely, that the really monumental scandals are a thing of the past, that the golden age of misgovernment-for-profit ended with the cavalry charge and the robber barons, at about the same time presidents stopped wearing beards.
I moved to Washington in 2003, just in time for the comeback, for the hundred-year flood. At first it was only a trickle in the basement, a little stream released accidentally by the president’s friends at Enron. Before long, though, the levees were failing all over town, and the city was inundated with a muddy torrent of graft.
How are we to dissect a deluge like this one? We might begin by categorizing the earmarks handed out by Congress, sorting the foolish earmarks from the costly earmarks from the earmarks made strictly on a cash basis. We could try a similar approach to government contracting: the no-bid contracts, the no-oversight contracts, the no-experience contracts, the contracts handed out to friends of the vice president. We might consider the shoplifting career of one of the president’s former domestic policy advisors or the habitual plagiarism of the president’s liaison to the Christian right. And we would certainly have to find some way to parse the extraordinary incompetence of the executive branch, incompetence so fulsome and steady and reliable that at some point Americans stopped being surprised and began simply to count on it, to think of incompetence as the way government works.

But the onrushing flow swamps all taxonomies. Mass firing of federal prosecutors; bribing of newspaper columnists; pallets of shrink-wrapped cash “misplaced” in Iraq; inexperienced kids running the Baghdad stock exchange; the discovery that many of Alaska’s leading politicians are apparently on the take — our heads swim. We climb to the rooftop, but we cannot find the heights of irony from which we might laugh off the blend of thug and Pharisee that was Tom DeLay — or dispel the nauseating suspicion, quickly becoming a certainty, that the government of our nation deliberately fibbed us into a pointless, catastrophic war.

Bad apples all around

So let us begin on the solid ground of these simple facts: This spectacular episode of misrule has coincided with both the political triumph of conservatism and with the rise of the Washington area to the richest rank of American metropolises. In the period I am describing, gentlemen of the right rolled through the capital like lords of creation. Every spigot was open, and every indulgence slopped out for their gleeful wallowing. All the clichés roared at full, unembarrassed volume: the wines gurgled, the T-bones roasted, the golf courses beckoned, the Learjets zoomed, the contractors’ glass buildings sprouted from the earth, and the lobbyists’ mansions grew like brick-colonial mushrooms on the hills of northern Virginia.

Democrats, for their part, have tried to explain the flood of misgovernment as part of a “culture of corruption,” a phrase at once obviously true and yet so amorphous as to be quite worthless. Republicans have an even simpler answer: Government failed, they tell us, because it is the nature of government enterprises to fail. As for the great corruption cases of recent years, they cluck, each is merely a one-of-a-kind moral lapse unconnected to any particular ideology — an individual bad apple with no effect on the larger barrel.

Which leaves us to marvel helplessly at what appears to be a spectacular run of lousy luck. My, what a lot of bad apples they are growing these days!

Corruption is uniquely reprehensible in a democracy because it violates the system’s first principle, which we all learned back in the sunshiny days of elementary school: that the government exists to serve the public, not particular companies or individuals or even elected officials. We Are the Government, insisted the title of a civics primer published in the earnest year of 1945. “The White House belongs to you,” its dust jacket told us. “So do all the other splendid buildings in Washington, D.C. For you are a citizen of the United States.” For you, young citizen, does the Post Office carry letters to every hamlet in the nation. For you does the Department of Agriculture research better plowing methods and the Bureau of Labor Statistics add up long columns of numbers.

The government and its vast workforce serve the people: The idea is so deep in the American grain that we can’t bring ourselves to question it, even in this disillusioned age. Republicans and Democrats may fight over how big government should be and exactly what it should do, but almost everyone shares those baseline good intentions, we believe, that devotion to the public interest.

We continue to believe this in even the most improbable circumstances. Take the worst apple of them all, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose astonishing career as a corruptionist has been unreeling in newspaper and congressional investigations since I came to Washington. Abramoff started out as a great political success story, a protégé and then a confidant of the leaders of the conservative faction of the Republican Party. But his career disintegrated on news of the inventive ways he ripped off his clients and the luxury meals and lavish trips with which he bribed legislators.

Journalistic coverage of the Abramoff affair has stuck closely to the “bad apple” thesis, always taking pains to separate the conservative movement from its onetime superstar. What Abramoff represented was “greed gone wild,” asserts the most authoritative account on the subject. He “went native,” say others. Above all, he was “sui generis,” a one-of-a-kind con man, “engaged in bizarre antics that your average Zegna-clad Washington lobbyist would never have dreamed of.”

In which case, we can all relax: Jack Abramoff’s in jail. The system worked; the bad apple has been plucked; the wild greed and the undreamed-of antics have ceased.

Misgovernment by ideology

But the truth is almost exactly the opposite, whether we are discussing Abramoff or the wider tsunami of corruption. The truth is as obvious as a slab of sirloin and yet so obscured by decades of pettifoggery that we find it almost impossible to apprehend clearly. The truth slaps your face in every hotel lobby in town, but we still don’t get the message.

It is just this: Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, all that follows: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we’ve come to expect from Washington.

The correct diagnosis is the “bad apple” thesis turned upside down. There are plenty of good conservative individuals, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the last few years. Hang around with grassroots conservative voters in Kansas, and in the main you will find them to be honest, hardworking people. Even our story’s worst villains can be personally virtuous. Jack Abramoff, for example, is known to his friends as a pious, polite and generous fellow.

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the “values” that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities — priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school.

Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.

Conservatism-in-power is a very different beast from the conservatism we meet on the streets of Wichita or the conservatism we overhear talking to itself on the pages of Free Republic. For one thing, what conservatism has done in its decades at the seat of power is fundamentally unpopular, and a large percentage of its leaders have been men of eccentric ideas. While they believe things that would get them laughed out of the American Sociological Association, that only makes them more typical of the movement. And for all their peculiarity, these people — Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Newt Gingrich, and the whole troupe of activists, lobbyists, and corpora-trons who got their start back in the Reagan years — have for the last three decades been among the most powerful individuals in America. This wave of misgovernment has been brought to you by ideology, not incompetence.

Yes, today’s conservatives have disgraced themselves, but they have not strayed from the teaching of their forefathers or the great ideas of their movement. When conservatives appoint the opponents of government agencies to head those government agencies; when they auction their official services to the purveyor of the most lavish “golf weekend”; when they mulct millions from groups with business before Congress; when they dynamite the Treasury and sabotage the regulatory process and force government shutdowns — in short, when they treat government with contempt — they are running true to form. They have not done these awful things because they are bad conservatives; they have done them because they are good conservatives, because these unsavory deeds follow naturally from the core doctrines of the conservative tradition.

And, yes, there has been greed involved in the effort — a great deal of greed. Every tax cut, every cleverly engineered regulatory snafu saves industry millions and perhaps even billions of dollars, and so naturally securing those tax cuts and engineering those snafus has become a booming business here in Washington. Conservative rule has made the capital region rich, a showplace of the new plutocratic order. But this greed cannot be dismissed as some personal failing of lobbyist or congressman, some badness-of-apple that can be easily contained. Conservatism, as we know it, is a movement that is about greed, about the “virtue of selfishness” when it acts in the marketplace. In right-wing Washington, you can be a man of principle and a boodler at the same time.

The wrecking crew in full swing

One of the instructive stories We Are the Government brought before generations of schoolkids was the tale of a smiling dime whose wanderings were meant to introduce us to the government and all that it does for us: the miner who digs the ore for the dime has his “health and safety” supervised by one branch of the government; the bank in which the dime is stored enjoys the protection of a different branch, which “sees that [banks] are safe places for people to keep their money”; the dime gets paid in tax on a gasoline sale; it then lands in the pocket of a Coast Guard lieutenant, who takes it overseas and spends it on a parrot, which is “quarantined for 90 days” when the lieutenant brings it home. All of which is related with the blithest innocence, as though taxes on gasoline and quarantines on parrots were so obviously beneficial that they required little further explanation.

Clearly, a more up-to-date version is required. So let us follow the dime as it wends its way through our present-day capital. Its story, we will find, is the reverse of what it was in 1945. That old dime was all about service, about the things government could do for us. But the new dime is about profit — about the superiority of private enterprise, about the huge sums that can be squeezed out of federal operations. Instead of symbolizing good government, the dime now shows us the wrecking crew in full swing.

Our modern dime first comes to Washington as part of some good citizen’s taxes, and it leaves the U.S. Treasury in a payment to a company that has been hired to do work on the nation’s ports. Back in 1945, the government would have done the work itself, but now it uses contractors for such things. This particular contractor knows how to win a bid, but it doesn’t know how to do the work, so it subcontracts the job to another outfit. The dime follows, and it eventually makes up a worker’s salary, who incorporates it into his monthly car payment. From there it travels into the coffers of an auto industry trade association, which happens to be very upset about a rule proposed by a federal agency that would require cars to notify drivers when their tire pressure is low.

So the trade association gives the dime to a Washington consultant who specializes in fighting federal agencies, and this man launches challenge after challenge to the studies that the agency is using in the tire-pressure matter. It takes many years for the agency to make its way through the flak thrown up by this clever fellow. Meanwhile, with his well-earned dime, he buys himself a big house with nice white columns in front.

But this is only the beginning of the story. As we make our rounds of conservative Washington, we glimpse something much greater than single acts of incompetence or obstruction. We see a vast machinery built for our protection reengineered into a device for our exploitation. We behold the majestic workings of the free market itself, boring ever deeper into the tissues of the state. Ultimately, we gaze upon one of the true marvels of history: democracy buried beneath an avalanche of money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

— By Thomas Frank Copyright ©2008 Salon Media Group, Inc. Reproduction of material from any Salon pages without written permission is strictly prohibited. SALON® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a trademark of Salon Media Group Inc.



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Government Scientists Created Anthrax Scare in 2001 right after 9/11—is anyone else as unsurprised as I am? Who else did you think was behind the terror in 2001? Bin Laden? Hahahahaha!!!! You still believe in the Easter Bunny & Santa Claus too?

Anthrax scientist commits suicide as FBI closes in

Jul 31st, 2008 | WASHINGTON — A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. The Times, quoting an unidentified colleague, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine.

Tom Ivins, a brother of the scientist, told The Associated Press that another of his brothers, Charles, told him Bruce had committed suicide.

A woman who answered the phone at Charles Ivins’ home in Etowah, N.C., refused to wake him and declined to comment on his death. “This is a grieving time,” she said.

A woman who answered the phone at Bruce Ivins’ home in Frederick declined to comment.

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr and FBI Assistant Director John Miller declined to comment on the report.

Henry S. Heine, a scientist who had worked with Ivins on inhalation anthrax research at Fort Detrick, said he and others on their team have testified before a federal grand jury in Washington that has been investigating the anthrax mailings for more than a year.

Heine declined to comment on Ivins’ death.

Norman Covert, a retired Fort Detrick spokesman who served with Ivins on an animal-care and protocol committee, said Ivins was “a very intent guy” at their meetings.

Ivins was the co-author of numerous anthrax studies, including one on a treatment for inhalation anthrax published in the July 7 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Just last month, the government exonerated another scientist at the Fort Detrick lab, Steven Hatfill, who had been identified by the FBI as a “person of interest” in the anthrax attacks. The government paid Hatfill $5.82 million to settle a lawsuit he filed against the Justice Department in which he claimed the department violated his privacy rights by speaking with reporters about the case.

The Times said federal investigators moved away from Hatfill and concluded Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the investigation in 2006. The new investigators instructed agents to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. In the meantime, investigators made progress in analyzing anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two U.S. senators, according to the report.

Besides the five deaths, 17 people were sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The victims included postal workers and others who came into contact with the anthrax.

In January 2002, the FBI doubled the reward for helping solve the case to $2.5 million, and by June officials said the agency was scrutinizing 20 to 30 scientists who might have had the knowledge and opportunity to send the anthrax letters.

After the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced in late June, Ivins started showing signs of strain, the Times said. It quoted a longtime colleague as saying Ivins was being treated for depression and indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide. Family members and local police escorted Ivins away from the Army lab, and his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague told the newspaper. He said Ivins was facing a forced retirement in September.

The colleague declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI, the report said.

Ivins was one of the nation’s leading biodefense researchers.

In 2003, Ivins and two of his colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick received the highest honor given to Defense Department civilian employees for helping solve technical problems in the manufacture of anthrax vaccine.

In 1997, U.S. military personnel began receiving the vaccine to protect against a possible biological attack. Within months, a number of vaccine lots failed a potency test required by federal regulators, causing a shortage of vaccine and eventually halting the immunization program. The USAMRIID team’s work led to the reapproval of the vaccine for human use.

The Times said Ivins was the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist who was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in microbiology, from the University of Cincinnati.

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Dishneau reported from Hagerstown, Md.

Stephen Baskerville is no Hound! Review of: The War againt Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family

The Government, Divorce, and the War on Fatherhood

by Todd M. Aglialoro   
7/31/08
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Stephen Baskerville, Cumberland House, 352 pages, $24.95
 
For whatever reason, social conservatives focus considerable political effort on abortion, gay rights, and obscenity, but pay scant attention to divorce. Perhaps they think that ship has sailed for good, whereas other battles still offer winnable stakes. Perhaps too few look at our “family courts” and see a culture war; or perhaps too many lack the conviction to fight it. And when conservatives do target divorce, rather than lobby for legal reform of the “no-fault” divorce system, or changes in the way courts award custody or child support, they have preferred to employ the tools of ministry, treating divorce primarily as a moral problem rather than a political one; its attendant social evils as a consequence of sin, not of bad policy.
 
This is a grave mistake, says Stephen Baskerville, professor of government at Patrick Henry College and president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. In his startling new book, Taken into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, he asserts not only that reforming America’s divorce paradigm deserves a far higher priority among conservative culture warriors, but that our divorce courts today are agents of radical sexual ideology, occasions of shameless graft, and instruments for the expansion of governmental power at the expense of Constitutional rights.
 
As unique as it is disturbing, Taken into Custody strikes notes from all over the conservative/libertarian spectrum to compose a sort of hybrid thesis: that big government and anti-father feminism have teamed up to promote divorce, tear apart families, pauperize and criminalize fathers, and swell the power of the state.
 
The marriage contract today is a legal anomaly, the author muses, in that our government directs nearly all its efforts and resources toward dissolving rather than — as with other contracts — enforcing it. In what he calls the “totalitarian regime of involuntary divorce,” unfaithful parties are not punished, and faithful ones not rewarded. In a perverse twist, it is the faithful party — the one seeking to hold the marriage together — on whom the guilt and suspicion are cast.
 
With the advent of no-fault divorce (before which divorces required cause, and fault could be assigned proportionately), “the fault that was ostensibly thrown out the front door of divorce proceedings re-entered through the back.” Working from the “therapeutic” (read: morally relativistic) premise that both parties must be equally to blame — which is to say, not at all to blame — for a marriage’s failure, divorce courts begin with an “automatic outcome” and then set out to find or manufacture evidence to support it.
 
How is that evidence obtained? Via “extensive and intrusive governmental instruments whose sole purpose is intervention in families.” Having quit the marriage-enforcement business, government has turned the full weight of its resources and coercive powers to the divorce-enforcement business.
 
 
The main area in which government brings to bear those resources, and the red thread of Baskerville’s book, is in assigning custody of children. With two-thirds of divorces initiated by women — thereby immediately casting the man as the “defendant” — and with courts overwhelmingly biased toward mothers already (in a paradoxical inversion of feminist doctrine, women are held both to be and not to be more naturally suited to nurturing and child-rearing), in practice the custody process typically amounts to a “power grab” by which fathers are forcibly separated from their children. The children, for whose benefit the process ostensibly exists, are then used as leverage by the prying state and as trophies by the custodial mother.
 
The fathers may have committed no crime; they may in fact be more dedicated than the mother to the marital stability that’s in their kids’ best interest, but no matter. The mother is rewarded for courageously having taken the “initiative” in the divorce — for having invited, that is, the power of the state to arbitrate in the most private areas of their family life. Maneuvered by skilled lawyers, abetted by social-science “experts” steeped in anti-father ideology and myths, and followed by media more interested in soap-opera storylines than justice, she can by the very hint of a suggestion of an accusation — of physical or sexual abuse, for example, or mental or emotional cruelty — rob a man of his marriage, his children, and his livelihood.
 
This is not the only disquieting contention Baskerville makes, but it is the central one: that right under our noses, massive systematic injustice is being visited upon fathers, threatening the very fundaments of family, society, and democracy. This thesis seems at first incredible, and initially I couldn’t decide whether it’s because the author doesn’t convince, or because I didn’t want to be convinced.
 
It’s not a reviewer’s placeto connect every dot of an author’s argument — especially for a book that, despite its modest size, is richly presented, containing nearly a thousand end notes and not a single uneconomical sentence. But I do want to touch on a few satellite points that attend Baskerville’s thesis, by way of giving a well-rounded representation of it.
 
 
This ongoing travesty is rooted in two main causes, which build upon each other: a big-bucks “entitlement industry” that grows ever-larger and more voracious, and the influence of radical feminist ideas and power.
 
According to Baskerville, the business of divorce is part of a bloated bureaucracy, a $100 billion industry in which judges “dispense patronage” to psychological “experts,” lawyers feed on the bank accounts of divorcing couples, social workers wet their beaks in welfare cash, and courts send out bounty hunters to bleed dry blameless but unlucky dads. And, naturally, the more each party prospers, the greater the demand for even bigger money: more divorces requiring more expert witnesses to demonize more fathers, and more intrusive measures to coerce their behaviors and attach their wages; more taxpayer money to fund more programs for counseling and sheltering more unhappy wives (in what he calls “one-stop divorce shops”); more state agencies (the “child protection racket”) to insert governmental authority ever more deeply into the sacrosanct privacy of the family.
 
So follow the money we certainly can. But Baskerville believes that we might never have gotten to this point without the influence of an anti-father strain of feminism, representing a “degeneration of feminist idealism” that first aims to make political what is personal (by casting conflict between the sexes in the historical context of political oppression and the movement for liberation) and, secondly, is motivated by “a specific animus against men and marriage.”
 
True: As regards divorce and child custody, there is some dissension within radical feminist ranks. Some would prefer to see the man left with the children, burdened with domestic chores, while the woman goes off free to pursue whatever empowers her. Others likewise fear that winning the battle for power in the household only sets back the fight for power in society. But the majority has happily accepted and run with what seems to be a paradox: on the one hand, rejecting outright any notion that a woman “belongs” at home with her children, but in divorce court asserting that children belong at home with their mother. Similarly, one notes the paradox in feminists’ claimed desire to have more domestically “involved” fathers, and their sense of entitlement to be the “center of their kids’ universes.”
 
Why do they smooth over the contradiction? Most of all, power, says Baskerville. By scooping up the children and the money, divorcées scores a tag-team victory — along with the courts and their experts, trained in feminist therapeutic precepts — over men. The current divorce paradigm also dovetails nicely, he says, with other planks in their ideological platform:

 
  • Deep-rooted antagonism toward men and fatherhood. As Dale O’Leary and others have shown, anger and resentment toward their own fathers is a common thread among lesbians and radical feminists.
  • Long-term replacement of the family with a system of government caretakers. “It takes a village,” after all.
  • Conscription of children as fellow soldiers in the battle against patriarchal tradition. Hence the modern movement naming “children’s rights” as a corollary to women’s rights.
  • The separation of the political interests of men and women. This is essential to preserving the model of ongoing political conflict between the sexes.
The larger society allows this to occur, and politicians enable it, Baskerville says, because of a carefully constructed set of myths that steers our sympathies toward the mother and casts suspicion on the dad. “He must have done something,” we say to ourselves. We all know the stereotypical stories of the abusive or “deadbeat” dad.
 
Baskerville dismisses the bulk of these notions as pure myth, asserting that most women seek divorces for reasons related to emotional fulfillment, not physical abuse, either of herself or their children. (He cites statistics here showing, among other things, that children are most likely to be abused by a single mother or by her live-in boyfriend; tragically, then, courts are in fact removing kids from their natural protectors and abetting the real predators.) There already exist laws to punish violent criminals, but these laws — and the due process that goes with them — are being ignored in favor of the secretive, unjust, and cruelly punitive family courts, which work with politicians, agenda-driven experts, and the media to “foment hysteria” about a non-existent epidemic of child and spousal abuse, and then prosecute fathers — not with criminal statutes but restraining orders, onerous child support, and character assassination.
 
Similarly, the divorce industry enjoys the full cooperation of politicians and the media in stalking “deadbeat dads.” But he too is a “mythical creature,” Baskerville claims, “created by those paid to pursue him.” The “national demonology” of the deadbeat is a useful fable, providing spotlight-seeking pols with a “risk-free target” for tough-sounding talk and filling state coffers with federal money (after all, they need programs to track down and punish all those wicked dads, and propaganda campaigns to educate the public about their wickedness). In other words, they get a cut of the booty — an “entitlement coerced from the involuntarily divorced.”
 
Baskerville pointedly concedes that there must be some true “deadbeats,” just as there are some true abusers. But in both cases the numbers are small. Most dads pay up, and those who can’t have a good reason (he notes that they tend to be the type of unfortunate fellows whom the government would ordinarily be spending money to help, not impoverish — alcoholics and drug addicts, the homeless and mentally ill, and those with minimal education and job skills). And millions of others eke out a living in the fringes: fighting to stay out of jail while they watch their reputations and credit ratings crater.
 
The great irony here, Baskerville says, is that “child support” is advertised as a way to make fathers “be responsible” for their children, yet it is coerced from them only after they have been forbidden by the state to exercise that responsibility in the ordinary way: by being fathers — protecting and providing for their sons and daughters on a daily basis in a common household. Or as Baskerville puts it, child support is about “making fathers finance the filching of their kids.”
 
In addition to lamenting their inattentionto divorce reform, Baskerville specially indicts social conservatives for unwittingly perpetuating such myths. Making the “sentimental assumption” that male promiscuity is the nub of all fault, fatherhood groups and religious-right leaders focus the large part of their efforts on exhorting fathers to live up to their spousal and parental responsibilities — ignoring the plight of fathers whom the courts have forbidden to do just that, and implicitly reinforcing the common misconception that most divorce stems from the husband’s sins, and most fatherlessness from paternal cowardice.
 
Small wonder, then, that many feminist groups, “cynically invoking the need for fathers,” lend their support to organizations and initiatives that on the surface promote paternal involvement, but which in reality only serve the system that keeps dads from their kids. Baskerville calculates, for example, that government and faith-based “fatherhood” programs actually direct a majority of their resources toward the child-support collection industry. They don’t want his presence; they just want his money.
 
 
Baskerville winds up his book — and locates his thesis — deep in the heart of a quasi-totalitarian state, by offering an eccentric but thought-provoking take on the now-settled fact that children of divorce exhibit more problem behaviors than those from intact families:
 
The family becomes in effect government-occupied territory. The children experience family life not as a nursery of cooperation, compromise, trust and forgiveness. Instead they receive a firsthand lesson in tyranny. Backed by the courts, police, and jails, the custodial parent now “calls the shots” alone — issuing orders and instructions to the non-custodial parent, undermining his authority with the children, dictating the terms of his access to them, talking about him contemptuously and condescendingly . . . all with the blessing and backing of the government.
 
Having thus become “wards of a police state,” he says, forced to live in and be formed by an environment of gross injustice, how can children not develop a “chronic disrespect for authority”?
 
In the occupied family of forced divorce, parental and political authority are unnaturally intertwined, a process that results in both kinds of authority being simultaneously abused and weakened. Discipline and civility are the first casualties, since it is difficult to teach children to say “please” and “thank you” when we simply issue orders (or court orders) to Dad. . . .
 
This peaks in adolescence, when natural rebelliousness coincides with the realization of how one or both parents have abused their authority by setting their own desires above the needs of their children. . . . It is this adversarial relationship imposed on the children towards virtually every form of authority that I believe best accounts for the horrifying statistics on juvenile emotional and social problems that correlate more strongly with divorce and single-parent households than any other factor.
 
Baskerville stresses that change won’t come through the efforts of government or non-profits, but by militant popular activism: nothing less than a “rebellion” that radically re-establishes the family as the primary rival to government power, not a building block for it. Only then can we hope to achieve particular strategic goals: legal limits on no-fault divorce, based on a judicial re-commitment to enforcing the marital contract rather than shredding it; a preference for awarding joint custody, which would both “dismantle” the custody/child-support industry and likely reduce the divorce rate (since it removes the motive for one spouse to wield custody as an instrument of power); and greater legal protection for parents rights, which, Baskerville surmises, might require nothing less than a Constitutional amendment.
 
That last prescription underscores the gravity and urgency that permeate Taken into Custody. Indeed, it sometimes crosses the line into stridency, such as in the author’s comparisons of family courts to Nazis, Stalin, the Eastern Bloc, the Weimar Republic; his references to Orwell, Marxism, “human sacrifice,” and so forth. But Baskerville himself seems aware of the gap between his claims and popular understanding — even the understanding of pro-family, limited-government conservatives who are usually sharp about such things. He realizes that the evidence he has marshaled is either flat “mistaken,” or else it “amounts to a reign of terror.”
 
If Baskerville is mistaken, then he may just need a little time off, somewhere out of the sun. But if he’s correct — and his book compels — then we have been blithely sitting on the sidelines of a critical civil rights struggle; perhaps the most critical of all.
 


Todd M. Aglialoro is the editor for Sophia Institute Press and a columnist and blogger for
www.InsideCatholic.com.

Readers have left 10 comments.

   Quote(1) Untitled
2008-07-31 15:50:51
Some worthy points, perhaps.

The move to assign children to women in divorces predates the feminist and no-fault movements. The plight of fathers has certainly been part of the mainstream culture for at least a generation. I’m thinking of the tearjerker Kramer Versus Kramer as one instance of a divorced father getting a very sympathetic treatment, only to get shafted in court.

I don’t find it particularly surprising that two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women. Wives are three times more likely to be on the receiving end of physical abuse than husbands.

I would hope that Baskerville’s book is more than an ideology in search of a cause. It would seem healthy family dynamics are at risk from a number of factors, including those foisted on us by conservatives (materialism, the Fox network, etc.) as well as liberals. We also have roadblocks like substance abuse, military service, a mobile society of job transfers and suburban sprawl, and numerous other factors that popped into consideration at the same time as feminists.

I get nervous when people bandy about “quasi-totalitarian state” and like terms. Rather than call names, it would serve your argument better to describe what you know and see and let other reserve judgment on who it looks like and what kind of ideology is functioning.

I suspect that much of the ill Baskerville describes is more an error of oversight, rather than all-out malice. Lawyers, social workers, and others do society a great service and they truly strive to improve the lot in life for clients. And some are simply greedy or power-hungry. And we have enough conservative Republican examples of those qualities in business and politics, don’t we?

 Written by Todd

   Quote(2) The Four Pillars of Society – Two Down, Two Locked in a Death St
2008-07-31 16:10:39
Historically, there are four pillars of society:
1. Smallest numbers at any given time, longest duration: the ‘family’ or ‘clan’
2. A quasi-monopoly on legitimate violence, codified laws, medium time scale: the government, city/state
3. Large scope, long lived, hierarchical organization, ultimate moral authority: The ‘church’ – associations of co-religionists bound to religious authorities.
4. Largest scope, shortest relevant time scale, most pervasive: the market.

Each of these has strengths and weaknesses, and interacting, they have all ebbed and flowed, occasionally absorbed each other. When the family absorbs the state, nepotism is a major problem and blood feuds spill over into wars. When the state pretends to the church, religion is co-opted. When religion absorbs the state, the church starts acting like an Emperor. When religion absorbs the market, the priests become auctioneers… just as bad. When the market absorbs religion, idol makers sell their wares on every corner.

In reality, we need all four in some rough balance. They can’t be allowed to run over each other. Why are the statist liberals and the libertarians at each other’s throats these days? Because the family and church are in such retreat that the market and government are the only two options – and some people want one to absorb the other, or vice versa.

What we need is both of them to retreat far far from where they are. We see people reminiscing for the Mafia, for goodness sakes, that’s how starved they are for an effective family… let alone a potent church, from which excommunication means something temporally significant.

 Written by ben

   Quote(3) Domestic violence myths
2008-07-31 19:19:45
Wives are three times more likely to be on the receiving end of physical abuse than husbands.

— Someone

This is untrue. See:

http://tinyurl.com/6brj3o

The truth about violence in the home is that it’s pretty much a 50-50 thing. Respected social scientists Murray A. Straus and David Gelles have been publishing research for years that shows the standard Only-Men-Batter story–probably visible on a billboard near you — just doesn’t match reality.
Women and men attack each other about equally in the home. Solid research now shows that women begin the physical fighting in their homes about half the time. Equally solid research shows that mothers are responsible for 65 per cent of physical abuse of children.

Although the words “domestic” violence are commonly used, some commentators say that a better description would be “shack-up” violence, because violence is most common, especially where children are involved where the woman is living with a boy friend. In a piece in the Weekly Standard last December by John A. Barnes, he cited four studies which show “that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in a stable nuclear family.”

Furthermore, of the women who initiate divorce, the majority are for reasons other than violence or physical abuse. See:

http://tinyurl.com/5cm7cx

The most common reason women give for leaving their husbands is “mental cruelty.” When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband’s efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect.

Another reason for divorce reported almost as much as mental cruelty is “neglect” itself. These include both emotional abandonment and physical abandonment. Husbands that work away from the home, sometimes leaving their wives alone for weeks at a time, fall into this category.

When all forms of spousal neglect are grouped together, we find that it is far ahead of all the other reasons combined that women leave men. Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, fraud, or other serious grounds. In fact, I find myself bewildered by women in serious physical danger refusing to leave men that threaten their safety.

 Written by Jeff Culbreath

   Quote(4) There is another reason why divorce is not mentioned…
2008-07-31 21:38:14
There is a reason why divorce is acceptable – and that is the political figures conservatives like to support are themselves divorced – some of them more than once. There is even a name for the sort of lady they marry the second time around: “trophy wife”, a ringing endorsement of marriage, isn’t it?

It was a joke that all the Republicans candidates had two three wives each, except for the Mormon. On the other hand Democrats tended to be still married to the first wife – even randy Bill Clinton held on to his marriage and tried to patch it up.

When a political coalition can take as a hero Newt Gingrich, who divorced a wife while she was recuperating from cancer surgery – and then cheatdd on his new wife, you can see why theys do not want to talk about divorce.

 Written by Adriana

   Quote(5) Thanks, Jeff Culbreath, for setting the record straight
2008-07-31 21:48:35
In my own experience with my ex-husband, our marriage was always threatened by other women who were more than willing to leave their husbands and disrupt their families in order to chase mine. I get extremely nervous when folks try to blame one gender over the other. Intrapersonal violence, affairs and addictions happen across the genders and all socio-economic levels. As an upper-middle class woman, I have met abusive, narcissistic men and women, in all walks of life. Thanks again, Jeff, for setting the record straight.
 Written by Mary Childerston

   Quote(6) Excellent
2008-07-31 22:48:51
This was extremely well written. Thank you for not mincing words.
 Written by Kevin

   Quote(7) Anarchy Ahead: The Harvesting of American Families
2008-07-31 23:00:04
I spent 3 years travelling the country shooting a documentary about the breakdown of the American Family, and the effect family court had on the behavioral outcomes of children. The discoveries were chilling.

When I realized the film would take too long to finish and that the world needed the information NOW, I wrote the book “Every Single Girl’s Guide to Her Future Husband’s Last Divorce.” My intent is to educate future second wives, have them protect their a$$ets, and cut off the revenue stream to the system. Once we eliminate the “squeeze” or “magic fountain” from the ways the system is fed, it will die.

Dr. Baskerville’s points should be read and re-read carefully, because inside his book are many ways to resolve the current travesty of justice called family court.

 Written by Adryenn Ashley

   Quote(8) “No Fault” Not the Problem, But Slavery
2008-07-31 23:25:49
As for domestic violence hysteria, See: Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – mediaradar.org

This article and some of the comments remind me of the devil’s trick to make Eve QUESTION what the LORD told her in the Garden of Eden when he said, “you will not surely die” (if you eat the forbidden fruit).

Or of the current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi’s response when asked recently on The View, why she took impeachment off the table, “IF some can show evidence of a crime…” (by the executive branch), as if she were unaware of Representative Kucinich’s Thirty-five articles of impeachment.

The reviewer and some above are questioning whether Baskerville has exaggerated in “Taken Into Custody”. What he describes can be hard to accept for those unaffected by the totalitarian family court system.

As an exiled, but FIT and CARING father whose three kids were brainwashed against me, I was forced into bankruptcy, had my drivers license suspended, my career derailed, and spent a total of nine months in jail for civil disobedience to illegal, uncontitutional sole custody orders by which the state of Virginia stole my kids, exactly as Stephen describes in his book, I assure you every word he speaks is true and accurate, with absolutely no exaggerations. I lived and still suffer from what he describes, and I know hundreds of other victimized parents, mostly fathers, whose fundamental right to be a parent has been stripped from them by this evil family law system.

God’s first Institution: Family, can best be saved by firmly establishing in family courts the same principle cited in our Declaration of Independence by which African-Americans, women, and others have been elevated: EQUALITY, a self-evident, unalienable right.

Just as the slave trade and economy existed by denial of racial equality, the divorce/family destruction industry and economy are based on denial of gender equalily in most family dissolutions. Both involve human trafficking at the outset.

Though fit mothers are occasionally victims of state-sponsored child abductions, the vast majority of sole custody orders are issued against fit fathers, who receive the shock and awe treatment by judge imposters from the moment they step into their secretive courtrooms. The system purposely tilts the scales of justice by denial of due processs in order to create and perpetuate family law litigation, and thus profits for the divorce industry.

The shock and awe practices of our family courts described in “Taken Into Custody” are the real terrorist threat to our nation. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FASCISM.

youtube.com/markyoung12
ExiledFathers.org

 Written by Mark Young

   Quote(9) “Taken Into Custody” An Understatement?
2008-07-31 23:56:57
Thank you for reviewing such a powerful book so positively.

To toss a thought (or virtual hat) into the ring, what if, as my heading states, Dr.Baskerville has touched upon a situation even more insidious and perfidious than what he presents in his book.

To argue this I will only address one major area, massive numbers of men forced into what many define as a type of sepeku or form of forced ritual suicide. What if the number quoted on the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is correct, nearly 20,000 more men commit suicide than women each year with the vast majority in the “parent ages”?

We are surpassing the deaths of men per year in Vietnam during that war by multipliers. In the last five years it would appear that these govermental and judicial policies may have caused the deaths of 20,000 of our best, brightest, healthiest men who were most committed to family. It takes a severe trauma and continued deprivitation to drive men in those numbers to take their own lives in despondency. If they did not care and had not been centered on their families and children, they would just walk away, indifferent.

The figures at the AAS website page http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/2005StatesGENDER.pdf show consistently men commit suicide in nearly every state at the rate of 5 men to every woman. When you look at other pages with age breakdowns and causes determined, you find that it is the men in the family rearing age and the issues are “relationship”. If these figures were reversed by gender we would see a media feeding frenzy beyond anything seen since Pearl Harbor.

What if we have certain judges and attorneys whose actions consistently account for the majority of these deaths? After all, 20% of the fishermen catch 80% of the fish.

Would it be a surprise to discover new social programs now providing major funding to the same feminist social workers paid to help break up the families for counseling the grieving children who have lost their father forever? This is a system to make money at every turn. At the cost of 10,000 fathers a year.

Then an even more frightening thought is our full compliment of family law judges in this country have become so indifferent to the deaths of men that we have developed a new aberration for the West, Gendercide for profit?

Dr. Baskerville’s “Taken Into Custody” as with most groundbreaking books, introducing a new, yet disturbingly apparent, set of facts and suppositions, has only touched on the surface of individual and societal destruction wrought by these radical social experiments. These social experiments are steered exclusively by elements most hostile to our families, children, and women, the most radical male hating feminists and the most demagogic of our politicians.

The safest scenario for a woman is in a marriage relationship with the father of her children. It is the safest and healthiest for the children as well. It seems so simple.

Stan Rains
patriotdad@hotmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 Written by Stan Rains