Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Conservatives: Beware The Crazies

I want to take a moment to discuss a danger to the conservative cause: the integration of the insane into the conservative community. During times of great economic and political upheaval, like the present, people will crawl out of the woodwork to take advantage of your heightened emotional state. They play to your fears. They spout false facts and use false logic. They make emotional appeals and demonize all who disagree. They are cultists without the god, and too many normal conservatives are being pulled in. This is a real danger to conservatism.

Yesterday, as I visited one of the websites that I often visit (I won’t name the site), I came across an article in which the author promoted a particular book. Despite recommending that people read this book, the web-author failed to mention that the book spins a vast, ignorant, misleading, paranoid and oft-discredited conspiracy. Indeed, the book is almost a model for how such false conspiracy theories are cobbled together:
1. Begin with an author who does not understand the subject matter about which they are writing, but is willing to claim unique, almost-clairvoyant insight;

2. Mix in cherry-picked data by including only facts that can be spun to further the theory and ignoring all contrary data or evidence;

3. String the data together in suggestive ways and allege that this is evidence of a vast conspiracy that threatens everything we hold dear -- or prevents us from achieving some better state of humanity;

4. Toss in a little false logic, usually centered around the "absence of disproof";

5. Allege a cover-up to explain the lack of data and the sketchiness of the theory -- though the author must simultaneously assure us that they have broken through the otherwise perfect cover-up; and

6. Demonize all potential critics of the theory and any expert who might provide a counter fact.
These are the same principles and mechanisms upon which the 911 truthers, the moon landing conspiracy theorists, and the great international Zionist conspiracy theorists build their mal-theories. They allege vast conspiracies based on irrelevant data and suggestions that the lack of disproof proves the theory -- a ridiculous bit of illogic that you could use to prove the existence of unicorns, leprechauns, or anything else. And when people try to challenge their "facts" or present "disproof", they accuse those people of being part of the conspiracy. Essentially, it's a self-proving delusion.

After reading the article, I pointed out that the web-author should not promote such a book, certainly not without warning about the nature of the book and the lack of credibility of the author -- a John Birch society member who has been vacillating between seeing the Supreme Court, the banks, the Federal Reserve, and a half dozen other institutions as either a communist or capitalist plot, and who claims that the AMA, the FDA and the American Cancer Society are “withholding the truth,” that vitamins cure cancer, because they have economic motives to keep you from curing your cancer.

The web-author responded that he had mentioned in some prior post that he does not condone the conspiratorial aspects of the book, but that he thought it would be a good primer for average people to get an understanding of monetary policy. But this is wrong. This is like recommending Chariots of the Gods, a book about aliens building the Great Pyramids, because the author presents a good primer on Egyptian construction methods. It’s like sending someone to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital because Marx does a good job of explaining the division between capital and labor. It is inappropriate to send people to advocacy books, particularly nutty ones, under the guise that the book provides a good basis for them to learn about an issue, especially without warning them about the degree to which they are being misled.

So why does this bother me? Because the adherents to these fantasy theories are learning to peddle their garbage to unsuspecting conservatives as just another reason for opposing Obama. They are trying to smuggle their agenda into the conservative movement disguised as legitimate concerns. And unfortunately, I am seeing more and more of it creep into the conservative community at large.

For example, every day I receive unsolicited faxes from a group that wants to scare me into opposing Obama. As you know, I do not support Obama. To the contrary, I oppose everything he's proposed. Yet, I am offended by these faxes. Their tone is hyperbolic and they are cholk-full of lies: ObamaCare makes private health insurance illegal and includes forced euthanasia, people older then fifty will be denied surgeries, ObamaCare social workers can seize your children and raise them, Obama is training a group to go house to house seizing guns, the FDA is making it illegal to grow your own food, and Obama has cut a secret deal to give Jerusalem to the Muslims. All lies. In fact, these are the same lies, slightly rephrased, that the wing nuts on the left used to scare their voters about Bush: Dick Cheney is hiding under your bed. But if you only give this patriotic, anonymous group twenty dollars, they can save you!

Now, on their own, these faxes mean nothing. I throw them away. But then I visit websites full of normal conservatives and I see these allegations repeated. That's right, these same insane theories are starting to appear on conservative websites, often promoted by normally intelligent conservatives who know better (or should know better).

This is highly destructive of our movement. Not only is it destructive of the intellectual core of our movement, because it replaces rational thought with illogic, it replaces fact with fiction, and it replaces reason with emotion and demonization, but it also distracts people from the real issues, and it scares off the people who might want to join us. Nobody wants to walk into a room full of terrified, angry people huddle in the corner shouting about burning a wizard.

It is time to stop listening to these flakes, and to tell them to go back to crazyland without us.

Further, conservatives need to repudiate the “idiot movement” that seems to be taking hold. For the same reasons that conspiracy theories are taking root, there seems to be a new strain of thinking that education is bad (often promoted by the same people who espouse the conspiracies). At website after website, I’m seeing more and more rants about “them educated” people and “them college types.” At one site, I saw the ridiculous rant: “we should make it so that you can’t serve in Congress if you went to college.” Yet, far from repudiating this fool, many of the normally reasonable conservatives at the site agreed.

Do you really think being uneducated is a good idea? Who do you think built the car your drive? Who designed the road or the bridge you crossed, the computer you’re using to read this, and the systems that bring you your food every day? Did a high school drop out invent your cell phone? What about that vaccine that kept you alive? Do you look for the stupidest doctor you can find? How about a dumb lawyer? Do you want your kids to have stupid teachers or are you taking them out of education because it's a waste of time?

And let me ask this, does anyone believe that the Founding Fathers were uneducated or that they would support a movement that views the educated with suspicion? Do not confuse those who misuse their education with education itself. To attack education is to attack everything that made this country what it is today.

Education is the pathway to the future. It always has been. It is about opportunity. Education is the key to your success. These days, having only a high school degree is the surest indicator of poverty. And it’s only going to get worse as the world becomes more advanced. If you don’t get an education, in fifty years, you’ll be doing the jobs illegal aliens won’t do.

Moreover, conservatism is an intellectual philosophy. It takes brains to be a conservative -- it takes only emotion to be a liberal. Conservatism, unlike liberalism, understands cause and effect and the fact that people react and adjust. It is often a difficult philosophy because you need to understand the future, you need to see how the world will change when people respond to your policy. It is about thinking ahead. Liberalism is about being swayed by emotion, about hero worship and trusting that a great leader, who knows more than you, will figure it out. This anti-intellectualism that is spreading in conservative ranks runs the danger of destroying conservatism and replacing it with a form of anti-liberal liberalism, and that’s not a governing philosophy, that's a cult of personality.

We need to stop being enticed by false, emotional appeals and crazy conspiracy theories, and start thinking reasonably: question authority, don’t join a cult.


ScottDS said...

AMEN! (said the secular Jew) :-)

And this is why I, an independent, keep coming back to this site. Now all you need to do is e-mail this to about a hundred other websites. And then e-mail it to another hundred.

"[...] and it scares off the people who might want to join us."

I'm flexible. Some of my friends might shudder but I would have no problem voting Republican in the future (registering is another story... one step at a time). However, when I read about the Nazi references, and the insults to education, and the lies, and the distortions, I think to myself, "Uh... no thanks. Life's short and I don't need that."

Now I know the other side is guilty of this, too. I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for the 9/11 truther brigade. I admit I wasn't the biggest Bush fan in the world but I NEVER called him a Nazi either. And I know the media covers the crazier elements on the right as if they're representative of the whole bunch but let's just all take a deep breath... because...

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think you would find that you believe a LOT more conservative ideology than you realize -- your friends too. We'll bring you around eventually! LOL!

I agree with your point that much conservative philosophy is lost in poor packaging. Part of this is media bias, which highlight the conservative nuts (but ignores left wing nuts), but part of it is self inflicted. Part of it is also the negativity, something Reagan never would have approved of.

What's really bothering me lately though, has been this small group of nuts who have infected the conservative movement, just as they infected the left under Bush, and the fact that so many conservatives are falling under their spell. I read things at websites that are so utterly preposterous and insane that I can't believe a rational human would believe them, and the next thing I know these things are spreading throughout the conservative blogosphere as fact.

And I'm really bothered by this anti-education thing that is starting to appear everywhere.

LawHawkSF said...

OK. Now tell me how you really feel! I, too, am concerned with the anti-rational element that is creeping into the conservative movement. William F. Buckley and the intellectuals of the fifties (using much information gleaned from earlier scholars) created the modern conservative movement. All the jackassery of The John Birch Society and the W. Cleon Skousen "Naked Communist" schools of thought convinced nobody except conspiracy theorists. Buckley's movement publicly rejected the nonsense and enunciated a serious approach to conservative thinking.

But that is not to say that conservatism is a movement only for intellectual college professors. It is the only movement that makes sense to common sense, hardworking honest average Joes. All the liberal intellectual arguments about how high taxes are good for you are not going to convince them. Yet where else would the average American expect to find conservative principles properly framed? The slightly-mentally deficient survivalist with the big dog down the street? Conservatism is a movement designed for intelligent people with very ordinary lives. Ronald Reagan was highly intelligent, but he never claimed to be an intellectual. Yet during his political career he cited Buckley, Hayek, Kirk, von Mises, and a host of other great conservative writers. He never once cited Joseph Welch, Joseph McCarthy, or W. Cleon Skousen. He knew that right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists are as dangerous and anti-thought as any on the left.

I am with you, Andrew. I seriously worry about those who have no common sense and hate anyone who actually thinks things through before subscribing to a political point of view. Conspiracy theorists are among the worst of these people, and they are starting to gain a foothold in the extreme end of the Republican Party. As bad as moderates are, extremists are worse.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew, I understand, but what I don't understand is why you won't state which site you visited.

I would like to see for myself. I fancy I am intelligent enough to figure out which is true which is false and which is scare-mongering.

Maybe I can contribute a comment or two that will undermine the train of thought.

Mike Kriskey said...

I can read between the lines, Andrew.

I'd like to state for the record that at my blog I only talk about black helicopters I have seen with my own two eyes!

I am not a nut!

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, LOL! I thought you were flying the black helicopters!

Joel, I didn't mention the site because I don't want this to be about any particular website or any particular book. I am seeing dozens of these theories creeping into the conservative movement, and they cover a whole host of areas.

I'm concerned that our movement is being highjacked by these people and that, with average people being so upset (correctly so) about what is going today, that many conservatives are uncritically accepting much of this because these conspiracy theorist are quite good at sounding sympathetic.

Joel Farnham said...

Ah, I understand a little more.

Joel Farnham said...

Have you seen "Conspiracy Theory"? It is a very funny. Julie Roberts was good in it.

I enjoyed it immensely. You have to see the movie two or three times to find out, every conspiracy of the main character plays out in the background.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Let me add that this isn't aimed at any particular candidate or any particular wing of the conservative movement.

In fact, I doubt very much that the people who push these theories are in fact conservatives so much as crazies who simply see an opportunity to try to push us into their direction.

To give you a leftwing example, there are groups in the black community who push the idea that AIDS was created by the CIA to kill black people. The left didn't push back. Now, according to a RAND Corp. study, 53% of blacks think there is an AIDS cure that is being withheld, and 15% accept the genocide idea.

RAND AIDs study

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I did enjoy that one. I saw that, with the conspiracies playing out. I thought that was a great touch.

JG said...

Liberalism is about being swayed by emotion, about hero worship and trusting that a great leader, who knows more than you, will figure it out. This anti-intellectualism that is spreading in conservative ranks runs the danger of destroying conservatism and replacing it with a form of anti-liberal liberalism, and that’s not a governing philosophy, that's a cult of personality.

This is why I have felt that the angst (from all sides) about there not being a "designated spokesperson" for conservatives is something bogus drummed up by the left. We don't need no stinkin' spokesperson - we speak for ourselves!

I saw that little exchange the other day. I didn't jump in, but I did give you a 'thumbs up'! Mostly because, not really knowing anything about the book, I didn't feel like I was able to really talk to any of those crazies.

Sometime at the beginning of this year, I was at work and a coworker and I were listening to Rush (online, on headphones, it was that kind of an office) and Rush was talking about the dangers of backing all our debt through the Chinese and Russians, that we were in danger of losing control of our economy if we became too in debt to foreign powers, and no wonder the Reds would be so eager to take our debt - that's just what they'd want! And my coworker turned to me and said, "And how can he believe that, but he won't talk about the Bilderberg Group controlling the money and power in our country?" This was a typical hourly comment. I learned to keep my headphones on.

It's like the birthers. It started out with some people asking questions and turned into something fanatical. It's good that people asked the questions, and I can't say all of mine have been answered, but in the grand scheme of things, it won't prevent the Obamacare bill from being passed or repeal the stimulus or anything substantive. It's a non-productive distraction. And that's my rant. :)

Individualist said...

So Andrew

If I understand your post you are saying then

Conservative should stick to Mounds and leave the Almond Joy to the other guys.


JG said...

FYI, I also shared this on facebook. And I'm planning to email it to a few friends who might need the word - if that's alright.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, Thanks for the thumbs up! :-) You're absolutely right in mentioning the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission and whatever the third one is they always mention. That's the same people selling the same theories. Only now they've repackaged them slightly to fit the current climate.

There is no truth to any of it, and in the past almost no one listened. But we've hit a point in our history where people (left and right) are becoming so paranoid and unhinged that we're becoming easy pickings for these people.

And what's worse, is that these issues tend to obscure the real issues. There are many issues that should concern us. But when people start talking about these conspiracies, all they do is distract from the things that really matter.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, sure, share away! :-)

Individualist, LOL! Nice summation. Looks like I could have said it in fewer words!

JG said...

Something else I thought I'd throw out there - the article actually had some decent points about the healthcare bill in the first half. In fact, I almost did my reflex of hitting the "share" button, but I (thankfully) waited until I finished. Boy, am I glad! But that's the hook - they get you at the beginning with, "Well, yeah, there's all sorts of federal/state issues when it comes to federal regulation of an industry, I hadn't really thought of that in terms of this health bill...." and then they go all "If only so-and-so had been elected, we would have no Obamacare bill and no debt and no pain or suffering in the world....and here's some nutso extremist propaganda to prove it!" I hate myself for almost falling for it....

Consider yourself syndicated. :)

And to the other Commentarama contributors - you also get shared quite often. I really appreciate what you guys do here. It's been a great resource.

Writer X said...

Andrew, great post. I would say that there are fringe groups on both sides but people with common sense can weed through the false logic and false facts. At least I hope they can. Perhaps the answer is that those who've become the spokespeople need to do a better job of communicating what's real and what's conspiracy theory--or at least feel a deeper responsibility. Buyer beware, even when it comes to political affiliation.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks JG! I'm glad to hear it! :-)

On the article, yeah, it kind of took a strange turn at the end from where it started.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, thanks! I hope that common sense let's people figure this out, it should. People aren't dumb and they generally haven't bought into these kinds of theories. But lately, people have been put into crisis mode by the administration and that makes it harder for people to respond rationally. Sadly, that's the perfect environment for people selling these kinds of theories.

And you're right about it being both an issue for the left and right. The left has the same kinds of theories. We've just been better at dismissing ours until recently.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, I forgot to mention, I think you're absolutely right that the idea of us needing "one leader" is wrong. We need to be more concerned with explaining what we believe than with picking a single leader to represent us. Everyone on Capitol Hill, every governor, and every other elected Republican official should be out there constantly explaining who we are and what we believe.

Writer X said...

Andrew, you know, that's a good point: desperation can breed irrational thought.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, that's why politicians always push big changes by first describing the problem as a crisis. If you believe something is a crisis, you are much more willing to forgo being rational in favor of making the emotional decision.

StanH said...

Conspiracy theories spring up in the vacuum of facts or reasonable explanation. The political class is perfectly happy having the opposition chasing conspiracies instead of paying attention to the facts on the ground, Niccolo Machiavelli would approve.
The one place that I get close to a conspiracy is illegal immigration, not that it is necessarily a grand cabal, but a self serving result for both sides. We have discussed this with the CFR, it’s not a theory with the CFR, but a stated goal of this organization, “no borders.” Politicians right and left are members in good standing, and I know, that in and of itself means nothing. I understand cheap labor on the Conservative side, as a businessman I’ve hired hundreds of people over the years, and I understand that liberals are looking for a new victim class or new Democrat constituency (by the way many Latinos are conservative,--this may bite them in the butt.) The Golden Rule of the internet if you can’t confirm it for yourself have doubts, with the exception of you guys, …ha.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, very insightful, and I agree with you. :-) I love the reference to Machiavelli!

I'm with you on the immigration issue. That's one of those powers that be keep trying to open the door no matter what the rest of us want. And that issue will end poorly if they don't stop.

In my experience, I've also found that Hispanics could easily become conservative voters. Let's hope we're right!

Individualist said...


I think the problem with Conservatives on illegal immigration is not their desire to control it but the methods stated. Quite Frankly I do not see any effective way to fence in the border -Sorry. In analyzing the problem I today think illegals enter the US from Mexico for three reasons

(1) To Get Work
(2) To go on welfare and get Social Services
(3) To sell drugs

Drug dealers will have the money and resources to evade whatever net you put in place to keep them entering. Your best bet is to catch them selling drugs.

Welfare should be removed from non citizens, likewise the US should pressure Mexico to clean up its act and offer better services to its citizens.

Lastly the best way to solve the work issue is to make it legal for Mexicans nationals. If a Mexican can come to the border and get a work permit that allows them to work in the US, they have to be paid minimum wage, meet union requirements and every other stricture that people hire illegals to avoid. If that Mexican Citizen can sue same as the American he or she has no more value to an employer than an American. Thus by opeing up the work you actually diminish the number of workers. This is especially better if Americans have rights to work in Mexican companies. Then perhaps the wage diferential in Mexico would change as well.

But none of these things will ever get done in today's political environment.

P.S. in my last job we came accross a place where fake SSN cards were sold to migrant farmers as part of an investigation. It is amazingly easy to get unfortunately.

AndrewPrice said...


Your plan is very interesting. I agree that "fixing the border" by throwing up a wall won't work. As I understand it, about 40% of illegal immigrants simply overstay visas right now. Moreover, how do you keep people from going over, under or around a wall?

I think the wall is simply mentioned as a way to make people think the government is doing something, without actually doing anything.

I also think this problem can only be fixed by changing the incentive for people to come here. Under the plan you suggest, much of that incentive probably goes away because the incentive to hire illegals is dramatically reduced. Moreover, it has the benefit of letting us know who is in the country.

I wonder if that would work?

Skinners 2 Cents said...

I hadn't run across the no education idea yet. Perhaps it's a take off from Mark Twain's political concept of picking random names out of the phone book to be politicians.

I must admit I love conspiracies. I've been reading about them my entire life. Although all the books were fiction, yet extremely entertaining.

I think another driving factor is that people are finally...finally waking up to how far out of step we are with our Constitution.

We argue about gun laws, we've heard all the commercials in both directions and with time it's numbing. We shouldn't even be having a discussion about gun anything. That's the real disturbing part.

The mysterious 'Federal' Reserve. It's not part of our government yet steers our economy. To the benefit of banks world wide. Foreign banks know more about what the Federal Reserve does than the citizenry that's funding it. I'm not really sure how high into the billions it's reached yet but there is still a lot of missing tax payer money. Tax payers have no recourse against this.

I think another zen moment is that average Americans are being demonized in the press and by politicians, that's incredible all by it's self.

To make matters better for this great American Reawakening is that while they are being demonized they are standing against organizations that their tax dollars fund. There's a nice kick in the pants for ya.

When you start hearing about releasing prisoner because we don't have money for jails. Then hear that we are sending hundreds of millions to known terrorist strong holds, it's tough not to think someone has an evil hand in this madness.

To suddenly become aware of the sham that is the US Government is overwhelming I'd imagine.

It's in fact just politics as usual and finally usual isn't cutting it anymore.

StanH said...

S2S: This country is indeed awakening and every time a Harry Reid calls the American public evil, the more aroused we become. We saw inklings of this in ’91 with the Perot protest vote and in ’94 with Newt and the “Contract with America.” I believe we are almost at the pitchforks, and torches stage, and Washington is paying attention. To keep with Andrews theme, this environment is ripe for conspiracy, and the wingnuts are going to be out in force, I have the faith in the American people to know the difference, especially conservatives who are used to thinking for themselves.

Being an optimist, I believe in the long run Barry will be good for this country, Washington always complains that the public does not pay enough attention, well Washington …we’re paying attention, be careful what you wish for.

AndrewPrice said...

Skinner, the Federal Reserve is not really a mystery, it's all there to be seen through the enabling legislation, the monthly Federal minutes which are released to the public, the monthly reports to Congress, the results of the auctions which are released to the public, and the audits that are done every year and are also publicly available.

But the Fed is one of those organizations that the conspiracy theoriest have latched onto for their theories, and they do love spreading misinformation about it.

And in terms of regulating guns, I am very pro-gun, but you have to realize that all rights in the Constitution are subject to regulation, even freedom of speech. It just depends on the level of justification needed before such regulations are allowed -- compelling state interest v. reasonable basis. To read these rights as being absolute is not simply not correct. Indeed, if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, police officers couldn't even disarm suspects in a shootout if the government couldn't abride your right to have a gun and prisons couldn't keep prisoners from buying guns.

patti said...

"Yesterday, as I visited one of the websites that I often visit (I won’t name the site)"

i thought: uh-oh, i've gone too far now....

i think the circumstances are making us all a little crazy.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, LOL! It's not you!

Mike Kriskey said...

I notice that Andrew didn't reassure me, Patti.

The CFR, Trilateral Commission and Bilderbergers are only distractions to lead our attention away from the true power brokers.

The Unitarians.

I am not a nut!

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry Mike, but I'm not sure that you aren't really running the Trilateral Commission. . . at least that's what I heard. ;-)

Skinners 2 Cents said...

Good try Andrew but I head up the Trilateral Commission. ;)

So the Federal Reserve is more open than I had previously believed.

I still have my reservations as an admitted lover of conspiracies.
Feel free to squash my conspiratorial concerns.

My first question would be about large bankers covering the US debt after WW I I believe it was. It was never really taught all that clearly in any of my history classes. Some say that was the day that banks took over the US.

Shouldn't our national bank be a little more out spoken about how over extended it's main client is?
To the point of saying no, we're broke, we have no money left. Instead they seem to add fuel to the fire and allow financial practices that most banks wouldn't even consider.

Instead the Federal Reserve is completely intertwined with the "fine print readers" over at Wall Street. I couldn't think up a better term to describe the Wall Street players that understand so well all the loop holes that they can manipulate the market. They are so arrogant about it that they brag about it knowing it's unethical and illegal. Our government does nothing to stop it.

The Fed's couldn't investigate obvious Ponzie schemes with any success. Many people pointed out that Madoff's business was doing far to well for the realities of the free market but after multiple investigation....nothing.

Is our financial system so confusing that the people in charge of regulating it are incapable of understanding it themselves?

Anyone with the credit history of the US would not be able to open a piggy bank.

AndrewPrice said...


So Mike works for you!! LOL!!

The Fed is much more open than the conspiracy theorist would have you believe. At some point I may gather some of this information just to dispel the wilder aspects of these theories.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not thrilled with much that the Fed has done. I think they've been causing bubbles, which have intensified our current economic problems. But much for which they are blamed is simply not true.

Let me address your points:

The Fed has criticized Congress/Obama a lot for deficit spending and the level of our debt recently. However, they really have no power to change that because they have no power over fiscal (spending) matters. They are charged only with dealing with monetary matters -- how much money is available to the economy.

In terms of what the banks did, it's not the Fed that generally regulates the banks. The Fed sets some requirements for the banks (such as reserve requirements) and sets the rates for inter-bank lending, but most banks are regulated at the state level or by a half dozen other agencies.

That's part of the problem (and why your point about the complexity is correct). Our financial regulatory system was designed in the 1930s and has evolved over time to meet every new challenge that came along. Think of it like a Model T that's been retrofitted every time some new advancement in cars came along. That's why all sides (left, right, center) are proposing a total re-write of the regulations.

One of the things everyone is trying to change is to reduce the number of agencies that oversee the banks, because this has created loopholes that have allowed banks to play off the regulatory schemes against each other, letting them take many more risks (the now famous toxic assets) than they should have.

Off the top of my head, I know that banks are regulated by the states, as well as by the Fed (to a degree), by FDIC, OTS, and the SEC.

The Fed wasn't responsible for investigating Madoff, that was the SEC, which is an entirely incompetent agency.

In terms of being intertwined, I have a serious problem with the incestuous nature of much of our regulatory scheme (see my Goldman Sachs article). It is too easy for people with real conflicts to end up in positions where they get to regulate their friends and former/future employers.

On the WWI debt, there is a lot of misunderstanding about debt. Debt doesn't give anyone power over the US. If we wanted, we could default tomorrow on all of our debt and there is nothing anyone could do about it. We can also deflate our currency and make the debt worthless. The only way debt translates into power is if you need someone to make you a loan -- once they make it, the power shifts.

There are other factors at work too starting in the 1913 era that many people never consider. For example, people talk about the dollar losing its value because of inflation since 1913. But (1) there is no accurate measure of inflation prior, (2) our economy changed dramatically at the beginning of 1913 -- industrialization, we became a net importer, our government ran a debt, and (3) inflation is only half the picture. If wages keep up with inflation, then nothing has changed as far as the average person is concerned. A better measure of value is the exchange rate between currencies, and in that regard, we've done quite well. In 1913, the British pound was worth $4. Today it's worth $2. Other currencies have experienced similar declines against the dollar. So contrary to the assertion that our currency is worthless, it's actually doubled in real value since 1913.

Skinners 2 Cents said...

Thanks Andrew

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

Andrew--thanks for pointing out that there is a lot of public information available on the Fed. As a Tea Party participant, I've seen the occasional sign saying "End the Fed" and the occasional person walking around collecting signatures for an "End the Fed" petition. I just steer clear of these people. But fortunately, most of the people at the tea parties seem to be regular citizens who are fed up with government spending.

On the birther issue, I'm of two minds. Even if it's found that there's no legal birth certificate, what then? We get Biden? There are a lot of practical reasons not to go down this road. On the other hand, this isn't like your typical nutjob conspiracy theory. A piece of paper would quickly clear this up. Along with a lot of other information that was never reported about Obama before the election, one can't help wondering if there's something to it all. Ok, I admit I've wondered! ;-) But ever since the questioning has been labeled a movement and been given a name, it's been forever marginalized. As true as any of it might be, I think it would be wise for mainstream conservatives to avoid it. And if anything good comes of this, it might be that any future presidential candidates will be meticulously examined for eligibility.

LawHawkSF said...

Pittsburgh Enigma: I think your assessment of the Obama birth certificate is correct. There is no constitutional provision for what to do if a President is found ineligible after the fact, but I have a slightly different view from Andrew's. Nevertheless, it would be dealt with, and I don't think Obama would be able to remain in office. But as you say, then we get Biden, and until a Vice President is put in place via existing law (the 25th Amendment), Nancy Pelosi is a heartbeat away from the White House.

My view of the Birther controversy is more cynical. I'm guessing that Obama was born in Hawaii. He's natural born. The idea that he would get this far without someone noticing a potential hazard is very slim. So why doesn't he just release the official document? I think he's saving it for a rainy day. When the Birther controversy reaches its height, Obama releases the document, and a great many conservatives end up with a giant omelet on their faces. It also allows him to continue to ignore demands that he release his full academic and medical records, since anyone continuing to demand them will look like just another Birther.

Individualist said...

"My view of the Birther controversy is more cynical. I'm guessing that Obama was born in Hawaii."


My view is more surreal. I do not believe that Barack Obama is an actual person. I beleive he is an artificial intelligence program that was created by Bill Gates for Rahm Emanueal. I believe that every appearance is really just a hologram. This is the real reason for the teleprompters. Obama cannot release a birth certificate becasue AI's don't have one. Instead he has a timestamp!

Hey, I'm making as much sense as the birthers here!

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