Fair Trade, For Real, A Rebuttal

In my last post I laid out a basic scenario of a type of economics that would allow one to remove oneself from the capitalist system. I received good comments, mostly of concern and disagreement. I expected, and accepted that, of course as we have all grown up and learned to function in a society never knowing any other form of economics, then capitalism.

First, I think I should at this point, reveal why I am talking about this at all. There are two grassroots movements coming to a point of actual realization, one being "freecycling" which is a system of bartering in an almost garage sale kind of way. Freecycling is not political at all, but really ecologically based, in the sense that people are saying, don't throw out your old stuff, "freecycle it" to someone who needs or wants it. The second if "freeganism". This is basically Crimethinc's answer to capitalism. It calls for the absolute boycott of anything, and everything capitalist, including rental or ownership of homes, and purchasing food from anyone. This type of Anarchist ideology encourages people to completely remove themselves from the system, and get off the grid.

I agree with freecycling, it just makes sense. Freeganism, however, is another story and what I am proposing is an alternative to that. A way for Anarchists who do wish to smash capitalism to remove themselves from the system in a safe and healthy (and practical) way, as well as a way for anyone to take some modicum of control back, dictate the conditions of their work, help out with ecologically, and save a couple of bucks.

Let's face it, times are getting hard, and there are millions of people out there who are already just barely scraping by. I'm hoping that some of what I have learned in the past three years can help others get the things they need without sacrificing too many needs, time, or sanity.

I'd like to discuss some of the comments to my previous post here, mostly from Don over at It's a Funny Thing. Don is an excellent blogger, who really makes me think. His comments and concerns were echoed by others, and of course are valid and legitimate on every level. Hopefully I can clear up the lines of communication, and help this idea of mine make sense to others.

Don says:

A medium of exchange is necessary if one wants to escape feudalism.

It was the lack of such a mechanism that was partly responsible for keeping the serf on the farm. And it was the creation of an acceptable currency which allowed him or her to purchase goods and services and to bid out his labor to others.

And he is right. I had no intention of proposing to eliminate exchange, but rather change the parameters of said exchange. I personally see corporations as modern day feudalism, in the sense that a few very rich and powerful people own the business, the equipment, and the land where production takes place, they determine the laborer's worth, and pay you what they deem appropriate, regardless of the conditions of said laborers (re: cost of living, experience, etc). While you can quit your job, you will inevitably be forced back into a similar job, thus never actually removing yourself from the cycle of feudalistic service. You are still a serf, only you get to change your masters from time to time.

I propose that we take some of that control away, and really create a "free market" where the laborers get to determine their worth.

Don says:
I make wooden cups. I'm also a fair woodworker. But I don't have the time to go to each seller of food, or power, or clothing and ask them if they care to trade.

This is the aspect of fair trade that I had the biggest problem with at first. Don also mentions not having the time and ability to produce enough cups to actually get everything he needs. What I am proposing here is that we, the laborers and citizens need to move away from the preconceived notion that our worth is determined by what we can mass produce.

Our time and efforts are worth so much more than one type of expertise, or particular skill, or product. Not to mention that hand produced products, or specialized skills aren't the only things worth trading.

I'll pose the question: How many times over the period of your lives have you helped someone move? Helped someone paint their house or barn, or wash their car? Watch their kids, or dog sit? Help with home improvement projects, or some otehr type of favor?

Probably hundred of times. I know I have. What capitalism does is tell us what we think we need and want, so we buy the products they make in excess, so they make money. What we really need to do is reevaluate what we are told we want, and what we actually need. We also need to stop being so humble, and address the fact that yes, we too, are capable of accomplishing tasks typically relegated to individuals of a particular trade.

Do you know what I need? I need to learn how to properly can foods so I don't poison my family. I just so happen to know someone who needs an extra set of hands during canning season. She is willing to teach me how to do it, and I am willing to help her can all of her food. That's a fair trade, and it has nothing to do with mass production of a product, or an attempt to sell things that people don't necessarily need. It is mutually beneficial, in a tangible way.

What I am saying is that we need to think outside of the box of "supply and demand" on a profit and product based system.

My husband and I have attained two cars through this barter system. We needed one or both, badly. We had no money to buy even a used car from a dealer, or privately, and no credit or capital to make payments or finance anything. But without a car we wouldn't be able to work (I'll get to that point in a moment).

We happened to find a person who was willing to trade a car he didn't want or need for a little bit of time and effort on our part. About 20 hours worth of work, helping him fix his barn. At my husband's pay rate, 20 hours worth of work wouldn't have paid for a car from a junkyard, never mind a running one. But by trading things that are needed the value of our time went up exponentially, and the value of the product went down, thus making an even and fair trade.

We did the same for our second car.

In fact, my husband's family has survived in this manner for generations. Every square inch of land they own were attained through bartering. So too, were the materials used to build the homes they live in. The cars they own, much of the furniture, equipment, and tools were all gained n a similar manner.

I would also like to point out that we have a true, honest-to-goodness trading post here. It's an actual business where you can freely, and fairly trade goods for goods. I am encouraging more places like this to open up, thus removing all that trouble finding someone to trade with.

Don says:
When I want a new supply of lumber, I can simply pay for it. My lumber dealer has no use for what I make either, but the person who does want my product has already paid me with a means of exchange that my lumber dealer will accept.

When purchasing something for say, a business, in bulk the equation changes a bit. I have no idea why I would be purchasing lumber - as I have no need for it, but business owners do. For this particular problem, at this point in time, money is still the only real option. I have no actual answer for a fair trade agreement in this, or larger regadrs.

However, what I have been proposing also affects this area of trade. One thing i have noticed is hat when I use a fair trade bartering system regularly, and get everything I can (which is about 80 percent of what we need on a regular basis) it frees up what little money we do make, so we can use it to pay for the things we can't attain via bartering. Things such as rent, utilities, or taxes. So too, would this work for the business man or woman. Anyone running there own business knows that sometimes maintaining the capital needed to keep purchasing supplies is hard work, and sometimes comes out of their own pockets.

Well, the more you barter, the more money you keep. The more money you keep, the more you have to use when you need to.

I have no delusions that our monetary system will go away, or disappear in my lifetime. What I am proposing is only a small step in the right direction towards true economic freedom. In the meantime, I firmly believe that this type of economy will help those who are financially strapped, help those who are working 100 hours a week to make ends meet, helping them dictate the conditions of their work, and taking a bite out of greedy and corrupt capitalist system.

I would like to say that my husband and I couldn't live the life we do without bartering in this manner. Without it, we would probably be homeless, and most likely starving. Seriously. We don't have enough money to pay for everything we need, jobs here are scarce, and they pay very little. (relatively speaking).

It also frees up much of our time together, as we no longer have to slave for just above minimum wage to makes ends meet, as we are now dictating the ends.

There is also something to be said for self reliance. My husband and I have set ourselves up in a manner where we only have to spend a very small portion of actual money. Between growing our own food, and hunting for meats (which also get us leather and fur for trading), we have set up enough trading and bartering contacts that we now literally only pay cash for that which we cannot barter. The cash payment to barter trading ratio is about 20% to 80% respectively.

It's a bit hard at first, and there are some con's to it. But once you really get the hang of it, you'll find it becomes easier, and very, very beneficial. When I first married into this crazy bartering family I resisted. I thought I couldn't do it, I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to establish what I am really worth, versus what I have been told I am worth all these years.

But now that I have, I have a hard time remembering why I hadn't done this in the first place.

But there will be more on this, tomorrow.


Capitalism Versus Fair Trade

One of the many topics for discussion among Anarchists, at least those I tend to speak with regularly, is that of Anarchism and economics. We live in a capitalistic economic system, sometimes referred to as "free trade". Although free trade is typically limited to international definitions, I hear it often in regards to national economics as well. Meaning, we are free to trade our goods and services, for a price, with few legal restrictions. The capitalist market is supposedly the last word in freedom of trade, businesses are generally free to charge whatever they deem appropriate for goods, and they allow the consumers to dictate if that price is too high, or just right. The government limits companies on pay rates, so that we, the employees aren't treated as slaves, and are able to earn a fair wage and work in safe conditions.

But is this the truth?

Capitalism may make trading free from too many restrictions, but it doesn't in fact, guarantee that said trades are fair. What I mean by this is that what we trade - our services for currency, our currency for goods - isn't equal in value, thus not a "fair trade".

Think about it like this. Let's say you work for a grocery store for $8 per hour. You collect your check at the end of the week, put it in the bank, then head right back to the grocery store to buy the food you need to survive. You spend around $80 for the basic foods you need to last you a week.

You have just purchased ten hours of your time, and hard work. The company gives you money, then takes it back at a higher rate then which they are willing to pay you, for the very products you've helped them to sell.

To make matters worse, "market conditions" can dictate inflationary costs - thus costing you more time, and more hard work, for the very same products. While your earnings stay relatively the same. There is also, of course, the illusion of a competitive market. While you may think you have the freedom to choose one store over the other, with regards to costs they are all about the same. As one store goes up in prices, so too, do all of the others. It never seems to go in the other direction, save for a large amount of promotional sales, a marketing trick that barely brings the overpriced items down to a reasonable level. Thus rendering your contribution to competitive pricing, null and void.

Is there a better option?

Yes, there is. it's called fair trade, and it is attainable. Desirable, even. Fair trade is also done freely. Some call it bartering, others, "freecycling". Whatever you'd like to call it, I call it preferable.

With fair trading you still barter your time, or your products, but instead of receiving a relatively worthless piece of paper, you get something you actually need. Our currency is rather meaningless. What is it? It's paper, with numbers on it. An IOU, essentially that has literally no backing to it. Our currency hasn't been backed by gold in a number of years, and even if it was, so what? Exactly how much is a bar of gold worth to a hungry child? Nothing. The feudalistic attempts to make rare items such as gold into something of value is a topic for another post, however. Let's suffice it to say for the moment, that you can't eat money. You can't build a house with it, you can't protect yourself with it, you can't do much with it other than trade it in for the goods you actually need, at an ever increasing rate due to it's fluctuating value. Food's intrinsic value to a human however, never fluctuates.

With that said, let's get back to fair trade. Let's say my car needs new tires. Well, what do I have? I have skills in thus and such industry. I have time, I have something of value to trade. Great! Who do I know? So and so has some tires he no longer needs, let's see if he needs what I have to offer. He does? Great! Let's trade.

Now, the capitalist market would have you believe that those tires are worth a specific price at an inflated cost (no pun intended!). But to someone who no longer needs them, they have little value, other than for trading. So, you come to an agreed upon trade, one that both folks are happy with, and viola! a fair, and free trade has just occurred sans any currency whatsoever.

This kind of trade can occur on many, many levels. Goods for goods, services for goods, goods for services. Many items for trading can be found locally, and freely, too. I went to the beach today and collected bucket fulls of shells and seaweed. Both have value to certain groups of people, some for jewelry making, others for sustenance, etc...either way, for about an hour of my time, I can now go to someone else and trade the goods for something I need.

But, but but! What about production costs?! What about imports! Exports! Taxes!! yes, yes I hear the objections already. On a large national and global scale fair trade hasn't found it's niche. But it will. Eventually, as trade deficits get too high, and taxes and tariffs become too burdensome, and all around costs skyrocket, people will become creative in getting the goods and services they need, sans currency.

It's time to ditch the dollar, my friends, and start working on a way to cooperatively get what you need without being driven into insanity trying to find a way to pay for it.

The thought of having a company pay me a marginal wage to make large profits for them so I can turn around and give them too much of my money by purchasing their over priced products is absurd.

More to come on this subject, as the inner workings of Anarchist economics is simple, yet complicated!


March Against the War Machine.

If you are wondering where I've been today, I have been at a protest. Today there was a protest, organized by the St Francis House of New London, at the US Coast Guard Academy in the same city. Last year the Coast Guard Academy invited president Bush to speak, and this year it was vice president Cheney. Personally speaking, I think Cheney is worse than Bush, as he has been after this war in Iraq for decades upon decades. He has had an twitchy trigger finger, and we all know what happens when Cheney's finger is on a trigger.

That said, today's event was much smaller than last year, and a bit different. It was a silent march and protest. We weren't to speak, or yelp or make noise, no singing (except for the Raging Grannies at the beginning of the rally), just silence, the occasional prayer or soft spoken word by the Franciscan Reverend, and a little pantomime act. The act included a die-in, which I got to participate in. It was great fun.

The day started out really early for us, as we had to get there at a reasonable time - because the rally started at 9 AM sharp. We met up in downtown New London, at a big monument near the train station (whose bathrooms have no paper towels!) and were handed out guidelines for the march, and lyrics to the Raging Grannies songs. We also picked up tombstones, each bearing a list of names of soldiers who have been killed since the start of war.

There were far too many of those tombstones filled to the brim with names.

Then we marched. And marched. I think the folks who organized it opted to pick the longest route possible. We got to our point of destination - and really we were just present, and plenty of local news stations were about, but Cheney was never going to see us. Neither were the folks who organized the event, invited Cheney, or anyone who even remotely supports him, not including the Gathering of Seagulls Eagles of whose numbers dwindled somewhere between 15 and 20 people.

Then we went home! It was quiet, solid, and I think we made our point without saying so much as a word. Your friendly neighborhood Anarchist however, made the news! So I'll stop with the talking, and give you guys and gals some photos to look at. Some I took, some were took of me by local news folks.

Code pink and Raging Grannies sing.

The theme of the protest

My love.

Aww, aint Anarchist couples cute?

More raging Grannies

The Smattering of Seagulls

Oh, so it IS about the money! Glad we cleared that up.

Tombstones (just a fraction of them)

Excellent protest poster!

The die-in, with Cheney killing freedom, liberty, and the constitution.

Me, Marching.

Protesters, marching.

Me again!

To see the Video Click on the first link!

Aha! finally a link to embed teh video!


The Fashionistas

What good is being an Anarchist, if you aren't fashionable about it? I mean, honestly, if we must conform to nonconformity, at least let that nonconformity conform to the fashionable standards we have all grown to loathe and hate love and adore over the years.

Besides, there are some Anarchist fashions that have stood true through the test of time, riots, chemical spray, flame retardant flags, lighter fluid, and slurpies.

I'm here to help you find your innermost Anarchist Fashionista.

Let's start with the basics.

The balaclava look is tried and true. It works great for protests, riots, and peeping in your neighbors windows. With this hot balaclava style you too can smash the State!

The highly accessorized Anarchist never leaves home without their trusty bandannas, goggles, and patches. It helps us distinguish the Anarchists we know, from the ones we don't. If you like the patches on the hoodie, you know them. If you don't they suck and are probably posers, anyway.

Speaking of posers, meet the beautiful Anok in a box. Here's a hint, she's not a real Anarchist! If you bought an Anarchism kit from Hot topic, go home, and listen to Green day, you'll feel betterknowing you smashed Capitalism by buying Anarchist stuff from capitalist corporations.

Here's one for all you non conforming conformists out there. The ever fashionable HazMat Anarchists. Guaranteed to repel pepper spray, asbestos, and raging Republicans!

No protest is complete without fully painted riot shields. Don't buy girls and boys, you got to make your own!

You should never go to a protest without your trusty black flag, and wicked cool Anarchy Blackberry! You'll need both if you want to get to the designated escape route after the protest.

ast but not least we have the Anarchist Fashion disaster. Ladies and gentlemen, this poor Anarchist tried to be Fashionista, but the cape would just never do for a good, old fashioned riot.


Anarchist Parenting, Why Discipline is So Important.

There is an aspect to Anarchy that isn't often addressed, but has been brought to my attention through some well meant ribbing. That would be parenting. Because many people believe that Anarchists have little use for any rules whatsoever, and amount the entire ideology to that of a chaotic and violent world, it's only logical to assume that this thinking would apply to parenting as well.

Well, it doesn't.

In fact, as I pointed out in an earlier post Anarchists aren't against "house rules" per se. Those rules and morals and social ethics are mutually beneficial for individuals and the tribes they belong to. No, it is the State enforced laws - often created by people too far removed from anyone affected by said laws that Anarchists oppose. Those laws are reactive, rather than proactive, and often times arbitrary with regards to behaviors that are or are not beneficial to the people who must abide by them. Of course, I've already delved into all of that, let's get to parenting.

Keeping in mind the acceptance of "house rules" or "natural law" as some would say the natural progression of logic would mean these rules are also applied to parenting. Anarchy itself is a rather disciplined practice. Individually disciplined, that is.

First, I would like to go over some basic terms, to make sure we are all on the same page here. When I talk about discipline, I am not talking about punishment. Punishment is only a fraction of what discipline entails. To be disciplined one must be well learned in the ways of whatever ideology they follow. In humanitarian terms, that means learning responsible, ethical and moral behavior. I hesitate to say "good" behavior because "good" is also interpreted as "desirable" and that which is considered to be desirable behavior swings wildly from individual to individual and the outcome isn't always "good", or should I say, ethical and moral? Sometimes punishment is needed during the learning period, but it is not, and should not be the first line of defense of a teacher.

So, as we parent we apply discipline, the art of teaching our children what kind of behavior is appropriate, good, moral, ethical, and responsible and we reinforce these lessons by rewarding good behavior, and punishing bad behavior. This might also be a good time to point out that in child rearing terms, these life long lessons are the building blocks of a child's moral character, and this learning occurs most rapidly between the ages of birth and age 7. After the age of 7, or the "age of reason" information that is taught to the child goes through a filter which did not exist for the first 5 to 7 years of their life. The youngest years are the most crucial years in a child's development. So, when I am referring to children, I do mean young children.

If you're wondering what I'm rambling about, I'll get to the point eventually, I promise.

In a joking manner a fellow blogger expressed humorous shock at the fact that an Anarchist expected parents to construct rules and structure for their children. Of course, there is a pragmatic reason for doing so, and it seems so obvious I almost shouldn't even go into it, but I will.

Children are not adults.

Adults maintain the ability to use reason and logic, and understand the link between cause and effect. This allows adults to function within society in a manner that will keep themselves, and others safe, happy and healthy. Children, however, lack that ability. Anyone who has ever cared for a child knows that children haven't got any common sense. They have a very limited comprehension of cause and effect, and have limited use of reason or logic. Although a child may seem to understand that activity X causes result Y, they in fact have not made the connection between the cause, and the effect. Which is why parents and caregivers know that even if the child physically experiences cause and effect, the child will soon forget, and try it again. Running comes to mind immediately. No matter how many times you tell a child not to run because they might get hurt, they do it anyway. Even if they get hurt, they will get back up and do it again.

Hence the need to create and enforce rules. It's for their own safety, as children are incapable of keeping themselves safe without the help of a parent.

There is another reason, however. Children, being a mostly empty little vessel upon birth, will be filled up with life lessons, and quickly at that. It is a parent's responsibility to ensure that their child be filled with solid, informative, and beneficial life lessons. This is where the ideal of Anarchism come into play, at least in Anarchist households. Although, I suspect that many parents do this without even realizing it is an Anarchist principle.

Teaching a child the discipline of personal responsibility is one of the key elements to teaching a child the basic principles of Anarchism.

You can't teach a child how to be a responsible person, if you don't have any structure, rules, or discipline in place. The rules here are not to be confused with authoritarian style dictatorship. On the contrary, when you discipline your children in a structured manner, you teach your child to make their own decisions based on the moral, ethical, and responsibility building blocks they need to become well adjusted Anarchists adults. They will grow into adults with the knowledge that they don't need a governing body telling them the difference between right and wrong, they are more than capable of making the distinction on their own, and are prepared to actually follow through and do the right thing.

Oh, wait, maybe I did mean to say Anarchist after all.

This method is a proactive method, and there is no need for a government to create laws to make it work.

In any case, that is why structure, discipline and rules are so important to Anarchist parents, without it, our children will not learn the much needed practice of responsibility, ethics, and even self reliance (at an older age) that an Anarchist needs in order to live, as an Anarchist.


Go Keith Go! Olbermann Rips Bush.

Woah - just Woah. Keith Olbermann takes Bush to task over comments he made in an interview. It's in two parts - be sure to watch both. Oh, and drink alert - don't watch this while drinking, I'll not be held responsible for a ruined key board or monitor.

Don't forget to Digg it.

Keep watching:

Bloggers Unite Was Mentioned on CNN!

Thanks to Kevin at Pointless Banter for making the video clip that you can see here.

Yes! Way to go BlogCatalog, and all of the bloggers who participated!!

The clip mentions Pointless Banter.com and Dead Rooster.com.

Way to go guys!

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Today is May 15th, 2008 and bloggers all over the world are saying their peace about human rights, and other pivotal subjects in an effort to gain enough voices to create change.

I agreed to write a post via BlogCatalog and their own Bloggers Unite group, and we are blogging about human rights. I typically stay away from the hard stories, the tragedies, the catastrophic and the heinous. I can't write about these topics. Although they are life and death struggles for the humans in them, I can't face these facts.

There are so many people in this world who are suffering from all manner of horrendous acts, genocide, torture, starvation, famine, disease - and none of the "big guys" are doing much of anything to help out. The US has barely intervened on behalf of the humans, the mothers, fathers, and children who are suffering all over this world, often times at the hands of other governments.

And we call ourselves the bastions of freedom.

So I feel helpless, as one tiny woman in this world. The stories stay with me, I hear them in the quiet. The pictures haunt my sleep. So I don't read the stories, and I don't look at the pictures, and I don't write about these events.

But as mother, NO!, as a human I can't.....I can't fathom....the despair....

It must stop!

Instead of writing a long piece on human rights, I opted to draw what I felt needed to be called to attention. These drawing are mine, and they are my most base reactions to what I hear, read, and see.


Comin' From the Right with Right Commentary

In the right corner of the ring, is Bryan, from Right Commentary, in the Uncle Sam get up, and on the left...well OK, this is an interview, not a boxing match. A boxing match could be fun, but we'll have to have a few beers first. At least that way I could blame drunken debauchery and belligerence for my arrest. That said, I invited people from all walks of life and political perspectives to allow themselves to be interviewed. Bryan stepped up to the plate, and even though we are polar opposites on many issues, we agree on one thing, just because we have opposing views, doesn't mean we can't have rational discussions. Of course, Being that this is the first person (on my blog) to have totally opposite views as mine I have to fight the urge to debate him in his own interview. I think I've managed to get a hold of myself, and only include a few basic links. I'll leave all the debate to the comments section.

First, Bryan wanted to say this:

I ultimately believe that politics is about people. As such, I have never been afraid or concerned about engaging in people with views different from my own. I wish to be clear, however, that I do not support Anarchist views, or much of the views on this website. I suspect most of the readers of this website will not agree with my views either. I believe, however, that this audience is both serious and passionate and that a dialogue between "a conservative" and people who read this blog is worthwhile. I consented to do this "interview" under that premise - that political discourse is valuable when it can lead to mutual understanding. I therefore welcome comments at my own website from people of all partisan leanings. However, one should not interpret my interview as being an endorsement of this site or its philosophy... just as comments and opinions on my site are not intended as an endorsement of my political beliefs.

Q: With regards to general political opinion, how much weight does the Main Stream Media (MSM) actually carry? Do you feel that the MSM accurately reports enough pertinent information so that American citizens can make informed choices, or do they focus too much on the fabulous gossip stories du jour?

A: I believe that the "main stream media" is the dominant outlet for how people get their news, and therefore, it can carry considerable weight as to how people form political opinions. Much of the media stories are digested for people – in large part because specialized knowledge is often required in understanding the complexity of what is going on in the world. As a result of all this spoon feeding and specialized knowledge – most people are unable to think for themselves about what is going on in the world. In that regard, I think the MSM has not been helpful.

In addition to the MSM, soft media, oddly enough like John Stewart's media skit, also informs people about events. Soft media often does a better job than the MSM in parsing news into chunks people can digest. Because the news is often entertainment – it is easier to keep the viewer's attention and thereby convey complex stories. There has been some research into how soft media informs people's views about politics – that research indicates that shows like "The Daily Show" sometimes carry more weight than CNN in how people form opinions.

As to the "MSM's focus," I think that news production is ultimately driven by market forces. What people want to see and read about drives much of what is ultimately reported out by the major news networks. This results in a myopic production of news focused on "the breaking story," the "sensational story," and personal tragedy. One of my blog posts – "That's what we call the news" makes fun of this fact We interrupt this announcement for an urgent news bulletin!. I think that parody is good at highlighting the problems with most media reporting.

If you travel to other places, you will see the sampling of news is different, although the format is often the same. For example, I doubt many people in America would be interested in 10 minutes of reporting on Agriculture in the United States, however, in France – agricultural stories comprise a good portion of the news hour. Similarly, coverage of issues such as the Arab/Israel or Israel/Palestinian conflicts would be foreign to most US watchers/readers. US watchers would undoubtedly be able to understand the set up of those stories – since almost all news is produced according to a US standard, both in terms of how narratives are told as well as how visually it unfolds – however, I doubt they would appreciate much of the content.

In the United States, I think the American public suffers from a bad case of "schadenfruede," and thus, wants to see Brittney Spears smash her car into a telephone pole on Hollywood Boulevard, while Paris Hilton is busy throwing up at some mansion and being locked up in jail, all the while Lindsey Lohan gets busted for having crack in her boyfriend's pants. Sites like "the smoking gun" are immensely popular because people like to see other people in trouble. We like to watch personal tragedy and embarrassment on TV. More people can tell you who is on American Idol than who is on the Supreme Court, or even who their Congressman may be. That's just a fact of the political landscape – while we all admire success – there is a wicked streak in many Americans that seems to root for personal failure and wants to watch it on TV.

Q: In what way has blogging and independent internet media sources affected the political arena? What aspect of such immediate and easily attainable information would you like to see changed, what part is functioning well?

A: Well – blogging has clearly democratized information about the political process and thus has made the political sphere more transparent to the voter. It has significantly reduced the transaction costs of providing political commentary. For example, for a few hundred dollars, one can create a site that can compete with any main stream media outlet. Depending on the access the author has – they can often publish quicker – thus beating most news media outlets to the punch.

The democratization of the news has made it difficult, if not nearly impossible, for candidates to operate. For example, Sen. Clinton's "sniper fire" incident was a massive embarrassment for her, once the "You Tube" video of her calmly walking around the tarmac surfaced. At that point, ABC's "The Blotter" ran the story (the "Blotter" is essentially a blog), and then CBS confirmed the footage. The dissemination and digesting of information now occurs at warp speed.

I would also argue that the democratization of the tools to produce media has also made it incredibly difficult to tell the difference between news and political speech – sometimes potentially defamatory speech. A good example of what I'm talking about involves former Secretary of Commerce, Mickey Kantor. I blogged about it at my blog Mickey Kantor - Maligned by a YouTube moment…? and I think it clearly demonstrates the problems that "rapid reporting" by people who aren't checking their facts – or worse – reconstructing events with a political agenda in mind – can have on the political landscape. In the Kantor case, I believe ultimately his swift vindication was largely because of the fact that the blogosphere works just as quickly at propagating corrections as it does propagating potentially defamatory items.

Q: The Fed has been cutting percentages regularly as of late in an attempt to bail out investors, and help restore a slumping economy. Just how effective is this strategy, in your opinion? What other economic areas need to be addressed in order to prevent a full blown recession?

A: The Federal Reserve's job is to attempt to ensure stable growth while moderating inflation and preserving the banking system and the US financial system as a whole. In doing that, the Federal Reserve is limited in the types of monetary policy tools it can employ – rate cuts being only one of the tools in its arsenal.

I would disagree with you that the Fed's actions are tantamount to a "bail out." To my knowledge, the Fed has not underwritten any banks or financial institutions – exercising their obligations to ensure deposits against bank failure or having pumped money into insolvent institutions. The Fed has ensured liquidity exists so that banks can work through their problems. This is an absolutely necessary activity for the Fed. While many criticize the Fed for "bailing out" Bear Stearns – they fail to realize how serious the financial situation is in the United States and how the Fed's actions directly impact their lives. Had the Fed not moved swiftly to ensure the overall banking system – financial collapse was almost assured. While critics complain that the Fed is "saving the rich" – the bottom line is unless everyone wants to go back to trading bits of gold and being considerably more poor – the Fed's actions were essential. If the banking system collapses – we will all lose our wealth (except for those rare few who hold significant amounts of precious metals).

As for effectiveness of what the Fed has been doing – I think it's still too early to tell – but they've done what I would consider to be appropriate. My disagreement with the Fed stems not from what they did but when they decided to do it. A lot of the pain we are feeling could have been avoided – in my opinion – had it provided the boost of liquidity required in September of last year. Everyone was screaming that "money had dried up" – even Donald Trump was screaming that, a guy who shouldn't have problems getting money. But the Fed just wouldn't be moved. As a result – the whole ball of yarn began unraveling in an uncontrolled manner – BNP Parabais all but failed, UK banks started to crush, Merril Lynch almost imploded, and then it kept rolling and rolling. The Fed's efforts to stem back the tide with "Repos" (short-term debts for banks to balance their books nightly) was ultimately unsuccessful. Then it tried other half measures to try and boost liquidity artificially without listening to member banks and their screaming of "we have no more money! Create a market!" What the Fed failed to realize was that the liquidity of the market had completely dried up. That failure spun us out of control and almost caused the "car of the US economy" to do a 360 off a bridge and into the abyss. If the Fed hadn't acted as it did - it most surely would be worse. Bottom line – the Fed has pumped almost a trillion dollars into the banking system. The Bank of England and the EU banks are also pumping billions of dollars into the system and underwriting the loans needed for restructuring. It will take awhile for everything to unwind and work itself through – but the bottom line is – we stopped trying to run our engine without any oil to grease the parts.

As for a "recession," to me as an economist, recession means negative GNP changes of about -1 to -3%. I do not see the economy contracting. However, in this country – growth rates of less than 4% cause considerable strain on US politics and attitudes about the economy. Popular culture cries "recession" any time the US unemployment rate pops above 5%. I just don't think we're there yet where we'll see real GDP contractions – but there is no doubt that everything has slowed dramatically. The bottom line is – people can't spend like they used to… and may not be able to for quite some time. I also recognize that a lot of people are hurting financially and dealing with a good deal of financial strain – but economic "slow downs" aren't recessions. The US has become used to "good times" being 4% growth or higher. When we only grow at 2% or 1% - things get economically and politically painful.

Q: What has been the largest contributing factor to the possible recession, in your opinion?

A: Personally, I don't think we're in a recession – not in a technical sense. But I think the slow growth we're experiencing is brought about by the fact that for about 15 years, we've been living off of cheap money, cheap oil, and cheap imports. When the pendulum swung the other way – it's been very painful for the US economy.

Q: With economies going global, how will a recession in the US affect the rest of the world?

A: Negatively. What the rest of the whining world is about to find out is that when "Uncle Sam" gets a cold – the rest of the world get's Ebola. There will be significant carnage and economic disruption down the pipe for most of the world for the next five years as a result of the vaporization of wealth in the US and the EU. You're already starting to see the UK have the precursors of meltdown. Europe will be next.

When the US contracts in its foreign buying – you'll see much of the world implode financially. What drives the world economy is Greenbacks.

My advice to our colleagues over the seas is – don't confuse dollar weakness with Euro strength. Your economies won't be able to shoulder the burdens ahead of us.

Q: There has been some talk of China decoupling their economy with the US. Do you think it's plausible? If so, how will this affect the US economy, and international trade?

A: I think it's plausible but I don't understand under what premise they would try to do that. China wants to be a super power, and continuing to work with the US and enticing US business and investment continues to drive that engine. They are not "there" yet to be able to go it alone – and will be unlikely to be in a position to do so for quite some time.

Q: CEO's such as John Bogle have been striking out against the current form of capitalism as of late, under the premise that manager owned capitalism has become a major burden on the US economy. What is your take?

A: Well, I'm unfamiliar with Bogle's statements, but in general, I think people who believe capitalism is inefficient, ineffective, or responsible for social ill is usually someone who fails to understand both human behavior and the fundamental problems of social choice under scarcity.

Blogger's note: If anyone wants to know more about John C Bogle, read His blog, His Wikipedia entry and his Website. His latest Book, "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism" is a great read.

Q: The finance and National Defense industry has been pulling the majority of financial weight in the US for some time. The loans, investments and exchange of currency has served to inflate the US's GDP throughout the last two terms, however our economy is slumping none the less. Are these two industries actually capable of keeping our economy afloat, what's more, if they are not what type of industry do you feel would be better equipped to create a sustainable US economy, and labor market?

A: I don't know that I agree with the basis assessment that "military Keynesianism" (your rubric of spending for "national defense" while incurring debts) is what has kept the country afloat for the past eight years. The US economy chugged along during the last eight years primarily on the back of innovation and productivity improvements, high technology industry, improved manufacturing, and international finance – not military spending. The reality is, the United States military expenditures are not dramatically out of alignment from previous Administrations in terms of spending. If you include the war spending in then expenditures are up by about 20% over the six years we have been fighting (2001). If you do not include the war spending – then the military budget has grown modestly during this period – about 7%. The war costs are dragging on the US economy – but those costs must be borne in response to very real problems in Afghanistan, in the GWOT more generally, and in Iraq.

Further, I don't know that I agree with your assessments that investments, loans, and exchange currency inflated the US GDP. I presume what you're trying to get at here is the implosion in housing prices in the US and the ripple that this had on international markets. If anything, what that event showed was how dramatically dependent much of the world is on the US being able to efficiently and effectively provide good returns on investments. The hiccup in US credit markets did not start with housing – and regardless – US credit market liquidity problems caused the entire world credit markets to implode. Despite all this nonsense of the end of American economic power – I'd suggest to my colleagues in Europe who are gloating not to confuse dollar weakness with Euro strength. Their markets are also imploding now – because the real underlying engine of capitalism world-wide remains the United States capital markets. When they get a sniffle – the rest of the world get's a cold. It will be much worse elsewhere.

Finally, the US economy is a mature and remarkably stable economy. While we are having problems now, I believe that a recovery is soon at hand and by the end of this year – the economy will be much brighter than it seems right now. The problem with economic forecasting is like it's driving a car with only a map and a rear-view mirror. You can look at the map and see where you think you should be – and you can look out the rear view mirror and see what you just passed – but you can't look out the windshield and see what's up ahead. I believe that Secretary Paulson is right in saying that the worst of the credit crisis is probably behind us. The US has pumped close to half a trillion dollars of liquidity in the markets. Europe is now starting to do the same and will likely pump about 300 billion of their own currency into the market. If nearly a trillion dollars of liquidity can't solve this problem – we'll then we're all doomed.

The US will grow the next couple of years through exports, productivity gains, and through becoming more competitive in providing services – mostly financial, intellectual, and scientifically intensive activities. We may also enjoy some temporary wealth from commodity production (agricultural). We have an economy that greatly rewards innovation, thus, productivity gains through innovation will continue to be our saving grace. Just as the US pulled out of its economic doldrums in the 1980's – convinced we were going to be dominated by the Japanese – so too shall the US pull out of the current economic doldrums by returning to its competitive and productive roots. I believe that long-term growth for the US will continue to be in high tech, knowledge intensive, and intellectually intensive enterprises.

Blogger's note: While I appreciate the answer, it wasn't quite was I was asking! For more clarity, read Mediocrity Postured as Success is a Loss of Failure.

Q: How much effort is actually needed in Homeland Security, domestically speaking? (Ie, is the threat of homegrown terrorism anywhere near as big as people make it out to be?) How about internationally?

A: This is a good question – one which unfortunately I'm not sure that the Department of Homeland Security has a good handle on in solving. The problems, however, are highly complex and failure is a significant problem. We are spending billions of dollars on homeland security – DHS's direct costs and operations, grants to state and local municipalities for Homeland Defense activities, grants to individuals attempting to come up with new ways to defeat potential threats, etc.

The next couple of years – the United States will face very difficult budgetary constraints. I think that those budget cycles will cause policymakers in Washington to develop some conceptual clarity about what it really takes to secure the US from the multitude of threats it is facing. I believe we are safer now then we were on 9-11, but I also feel that there is a considerable amount of waste in how homeland defense (or national defense) dollars are spent. Tight budget times tend to sharpen the pencil in figuring out what are truly mission critical activities.

However, let's also not forget the depth of the situation we're facing. In 2001, the United States was vulnerable to terrorist attack. September 11th demonstrated that fact. I believe that for all the problems the Department of Homeland Security has had, and for all the problems the US government has had more broadly, the United States is safer and better able to deal with an attack on the US homeland than it was on 2001. I think thus far, our money has been reasonably well spent.

Assessing risks, however, is a tricky business. Your question of "how much is needed" is really a question about where are the greatest risks and how much resource can be applied to mitigate them. The answer to that question is – it's really hard to know because terrorists have a wide menu of things to attack and we're faced with an incredibly difficult environment of attempting to uncover information about terrorist plots and maneuver our assets in place to stop them.

However, al Qaida continues to desire to strike the United States, its allies, and its interests. Al Qaida's most recent release continues to condemn the United States and countries aligned with the US in the global war on terrorism. The threats from al Qaida have to be taken seriously and we must undertake steps to make another 9-11 attack difficult, if not impossible. Other terrorist groups may also decide to attack the United States. Al Qaida is not the only game in town – and there are reasons I could see other terrorist groups deciding to attack the US. We must be on guard against such threats of terrorism.

I am not as convinced, however, that the organizations that evolved and the ways of measuring risks of terrorism are the end-all be-all way to do it. I think that over time, we'll get a lot of smarter at determining risks and what are the best means to combat them. Remember that it took about 50 years of joint fighting, refining, and fighting some more to develop the strategies we use today that make our military force so effective. Similarly, DHS is going to need to continuously evaluate, refine, and adapt. The intelligence communities are already in the process of evaluating, refining, and changing how they do business to better enable policymakers with timely and relevant information. Information is the key to stopping terrorist attacks before you have high casualties (or any casualties).

That said, I think we have done a good job at "hardening" the US. It is much more difficult now for al Qaida or any terrorist organization to operate. When I was a US official, I argued to my colleagues abroad that they were now the easier threats to attack, not the US, and that they would be the ones to suffer more attacks. Unfortunately, I was proven correct as al Qaida has attacked countries in Europe and in the Middle East in their support of the US against al Qaida.

Europe and much of the world doesn't take terrorism seriously enough. Unfortunately – they'll learn that lesson when the Eiffel tower is a heap, or White Hall, or the Bundestag, is in rubble. Al Qaida will continue to attack whatever targets it can – and US targets are undoubtedly more hardened than how our allies deal with the threats abroad.

Seperately, homegrown terrorism is clearly something to be concerned about. I'll be honest – that's not my field of expertise – so I don't know if I'm in the best position to answer about that threat. As Tony Blair said, however, the real problem for Britan's March attacks was that the individuals were British citizens – making it much more difficult to detect their activities. I believe that there are many reasons why Islamic fundamentalism would have a difficult time surviving in the US culture – namely because of our pluralism and avenues for social discourse – but these facets of US democracy are by no means an inoculation against homeland attacks by homegrown terrorists. Just look at Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing – the most serious terrorist attack before 9/11.

All of these things need to be considered and planned for – as well as a lot of other things that the public writ large does not need to (and cannot) know for their own safety. I think that the budget realities of the 2010 budget cycle will make policy planners have to think long and hard about the best way to secure against the obvious threats, and the not so obvious ones.

Q: What is the general consensus of privatized security groups and contractors such as Blackwater, when operating next to an all volunteer military? Are these groups beneficial, a detriment?

A: I don't know if I can speak to a "general consensus" position. Consensus among whom exactly? That aside, Private Military Corporations stem from the fact that the US has made decisions about what capabilities to retain "in house" (via the military) and what capabilities to contract for and hire out. PMC's are largely engaged in security and protection missions – missions that are labor intensive for US forces. In a situation where forces are small – either by choice or by the operational realities – having PMC augmentation can be valuable for missions that need skilled troops, but are not "front line" battle missions.

Q: With regards to Blackwater, during the Blackwater hearings some months ago, it was made known that Blackwater was under the supervision of the military, and was accountable to the US military in all matters over seas. Just how true is this, and how effective is government control over a private group, when under fire? If such a group does go outside of legal parameters when overseas, how does this impact the specific military command they are working with?

A: Quite honestly, this question is essentially a question before the US Federal courts in a number of cases. The degree to which military justice applies to contractors is not well settled. I believe that federal law, the uniform code of military justice, as well as contract specifications usually written into PMC contracts provide for the US military to punish individuals for violations of US law or laws covered under the SOFA (Status of Forces) agreements. It is a common thing to see in DoD policies and directives that contractors are subject to the same obligations as US government employees. This would include, I would imagine, PMC's.

Ultimately, anyone operating in a war zone is subject to the Combatant Commander's (COCOM) authority – thus – at the minimum, the COCOM always has the authority to reach out and apprehend someone operating in his area of responsibility. COCOM authority in war zones is broad and well defined under Title X of the US Code.

I believe contractors are ultimately covered under US law and can be prosecuted for crimes or misconduct they engage in while operating with US government agencies, US forces, or under contract to the US government. If a US attorney wants to sue a contractor for unlawful activity abroad under the US controlled AOR – I think he can do it. I also think military courts can exercise jurisdiction. However, as I said, these issues are under legal review and we may know if I'm right soon enough.

Q: Is the proposed US missile defense system [to be placed ] in Poland going to be effective against terrorist strikes, or is it simply the best place to put a defense system to deter any strikes from around the globe? Did US know how Russia would react to it prior to creating the proposal? Furthermore, do you think that the proposal was the last straw in the already strenuous relationship with Russia?

A: Complicated question. I don't know the capabilities of the system to be able to tell you if it can thwart terrorist attacks. Few terrorist organizations have the capability to deploy rockets that fly any significant distance, thus, I can't immediately foresee a group like al Qaida launching an ICBM from a host country towards the US and then US forces in Poland shooting it down. But again, I don't know the extent of the system or the full extent of what terrorists may have available to them. If a group like al Qaida were to build a bomb, and convince a host government with ballistic missile technology to sell a rocket to them – or allow them to launch a rocket – then it is quite possible the US could face such a WMD threat.

As for knowing how governments will react - in my experience, policy analysts usually take into account target and other government responses in conducting their analysis. I doubt very much that the US knew "nothing" about how Russia would respond to the deployment of ABM in Poland.

As for being the "last straw," I don't think so. The reality is that Russia and the US are old adversaries – and while "Russia" is no longer the USSR – they know the score and they know how to play the game. I doubt much it caused a significant hiccup in US/Soviet relations. The Russians have many other problems to chase down – other than going crazy over ABM technology. They know that their existing weapons capability would overwhelm a single system. For them, the deployment in Poland undoubtedly comes down to issues of sphere of influence and us playing in their back yard.

Q: The hot button issue for today is; Clinton's stance on Iran. Do her statements come across as strong, neglectful, or just plain old posturing? Does the notion of obliterating Iran as possible foreign policy come across as the most responsible of policies?

A: It comes across to me as posturing. I think Clinton is much more of a hawk than she let's on, but, I also don't think she's crazy enough to just try and wipe a country off the map. For me personally, the US would have to be facing existential threats before I could sign on to vaporizing a country like Iran. If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, and were to threaten the US, then I would fully support whatever deterrent and/or compellence acts needed to eliminate the threat. If Iran threatened a US city with destruction – then I would support all means necessary to stop it, or alternatively, to eliminate Iran as a country. I think the government of Iran knows this – and thus – nuclear deterrence with Iran is possible. While I don't want to see them obtain nuclear weapons, and perhaps military action to intervene is both wise and appropriate, should they develop nuclear weapons, I believe their behaviors can be deterred. However, their development of nuclear weapons will spark considerable turmoil in the middle east – and not just with Israel.

Q: If the US moves into Iran, what are your predictions for future global and international relations with countries such as China, Russia, and Venezuela?

A: This is a very broad question based on a good deal of assumptions that you haven't specified and thus it is a difficult question to answer with general assumptions. Presuming that what you mean by "moves into Iran" is the US initiating or responding to an event with a military strike on Iran or its interests, the basis for such an act would need to be something that was in the national interest. It is important to think about the broader foreign policy responses as part of the context for evaluating an action – however that said – international reaction alone is rarely a reason against military action if such acts are otherwise justified under doctrines of jus ad bellum.

As with any US action, other countries view it through the lens of whether or not our action enhances or degrades their position. They will chose to oppose the US action, or bandwagon with the US in supporting our policies, depending on what action they belief will benefit them the most. Chavez has a long history of opposing the US even if US action benefits Venezuela. Russia and China are much more astute players of politics and are less likely to judge US action solely through an ideological lens.

Q: Speaking of Venezuela, in the recent Exxon lawsuit against Venezuela over the nationalization of an oil project, International courts ruled that Exxon had no case. What is your take on this?

A: Opinions disagree. I personally do not place much faith in international jurisprudence. Thus far, it's been quite problematic on human rights, and I imagine it's even less effective in handling economic and international business disputes. Perhaps over time it will become more robust, but for now, it seems weak and infantile. Besides, despite Chavez's naked attempt to steal Exxon's money – Exxon managed to secure in February about $15B dollars in Chavez's assets – and those assets remain frozen as far as I know. So I guess who's the weaker party here? Exxon or Chavez? I'd argue Chavez.

Exxon makes more money in a year than Venezuela makes in a decade. All Chavez did by nationalizing the oil fields and kicking Exxon out was ensure his people would continue to remain poor. He lacks the technology and the ability to extract the oil efficiently.

Blogger's note: Exxon's case was dismissed, and all funds have been unfrozen, and returned to Venezuela, last I checked.

Q: You are a proponent of drilling in ANWR, but eventually, oil will become such a high priced commodity that it will no longer be practical to use on a day to day basis. What alternative energy sources should the US be looking to, that will both power our country, and continue to fuel our economy and labor market?

A: I don't know. I'm not an energy expert. I believe, however, that market based alternative fuel solutions are out there and that the US needs to be serious about both a) winning the race for global energy, and b) coming up with better ways to employ energy resources to maximize output.

That said, not drilling in ANWR is just plain stupid. It's like deciding your car is wrecked, your house burnt down, and you need new clothes, new shoes, and a new place to sleep, but you refuse to dig into your $100,000 bank account because your Aunt Tessy may not like you anymore. We have immediate needs that can be alleviated through ANWR drilling. And although the "green movement" would have people believe that ANWR is "eden" or something – bottom line is it's not – its desolate rock. We should be drilling in ANWR as well as other places so that we can increase overall supply. The bottom line is – we need more oil.

I will say, however, that "corn gas" and other similar panaceas that politicians are hawking lately is just garbage. I blogged on it (http://rightcommentary.com/2008/04/25/corn-hoax-well-need-oil-and-lots-of-it/) and it's pretty obvious that alternative fuels will need to be market based and provide greater returns to scale than the energy required to extract or develop the resources.

Q: Regardless of individual opinions about the Iraq war, right now we are there, and Iraq is not functioning properly. Do you feel that Iraq's lack of structure and stability are caused by too much US intervention?

A: That's the $110 Billion dollar a year question – isn't it? I think that the bottom line is Iraq was so screwed up of a country under Saddam that it is going to take a long time to build an Iraq that isn't governed by fear and corruption. I think, however, that US presence in Iraq both helps and hurts at the same time. I just don't know how much of an impact US forces have on the Iraqi's not accepting responsibility for their country. Unfortunately, political science has a dreary lesson for countries that are "given" their freedom – they almost always fail and lapse into violence.

I'll be honest – Iraq is not my forte. I don't know enough about all the sects and all the intersections of policy, politics, and history for that country. I believe we can over time stabilize it – but I think it's a long haul that will take probably another decade.

Q: What steps need to be taken to rectify the sectarian disputes, so Iraq can once again function on their own, and we can see our men and women come home? Is it time for the politicians to step in and make it happen on a governmental level and not by ground troops?

A: I think Gen. Petreaus laid out an effective strategy for dealing with the sectarian violence. It's clear that unless the various sects have a vested interest in a successful Iraq – they'll continue jockeying to be "king of the hill" and fight for resources, power, and prestige.

As for "the government to step in" – I hate to shatter your fragile construct – but the US government has stepped in – at the Presidential level – and it doesn't get any higher than that. Bottom line is, a lot of what Iraq's government and political structure is is just broken.

Q: Iraq is undergoing a refugee crisis at the moment, and many neighborhoods have been locked down to prevent sectarian violence. Some analysts believe that the violence will erupt just as soon as the US leaves, and nothing can be done about it. What is your take on this opinion?

A: I essentially agree with the analysis that if the US leaves Iraq before stabilizing the situation, the chaos that will ensure could cost thousands if not tens of thousands their lives.

Q: Finally, if you took the Head of the DoD, and the Head of Homeland security, and threw them in a wrestling ring, who would you put your money on?

A: Funny! My money would be on Secretary Gates. Mike Chertoff is a strong guy – but I'm pretty sure an ex-CIA man must have had some training that a former Federal Judge couldn't counter.

If you want to read more from Bryan Head on over to his blog Right Commentary or visit his bio for more information at About the Editor

> Insert Mother's Day Post here. <

Well, I was supposed to do a Mother's Day post yesterday, but I was too busy being a mother. So, you'll get my Mother's Day well wishes today even it is a day late, and a dollar short.

Mother's Day originally in the US was about mothers protesting the brutality of war, and has been transformed into a true commercial hallmark holiday. What a shame.

But for all the mothers out there who do oppose brutality and unnecessary wars, I applaud your vigilance. For those mothers out there braying for war and supporting brutality on behalf of the US, put your flowers down and think about what it is you are celebrating.


Aint That The Truth.

"In war, truth is the first casualty" ~ Aeschylus. This is the very concept that bloggers like Ruinous Right are trying to combat. Don't let the name fool you, Ruinous Right is all about debunking the shock-jock pundits that dominate the airwaves, creating confusion and delusions by spewing bitter-sweet half truths into the air, hoping for a political pandemic crisis. And mostly for the sake of a greasy buck, at that. But Ruinous Right has a solid sense of fair play, and as you will see, isn't ruinous, but is certainly right.
Q: You stated your website was designed to raise awareness about the actions and misdeeds of (some of ) the far right in the US. Explain what prompted this in the first place.

A: First, it's my opinion (and seeming the majority of U.S. citizen's opinion) that we've made some serious missteps since 9/11.

I believe retaliation against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was justified after the attacks of September 11, 2001. At the same time I believe the U.S. helped cultivate some of the hatred coming from the Middle East by supporting the totalitarian regimes of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and others thru the years. As well, our efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine have been biased and rather weak. That said, I in NO WAY support or defend suicide bombings or attacks on ANY innocent civilians - here, there, anywhere.

Our invasion of Iraq is where things really started heading south. There is evidence that it was a preconceived war and 9/11 offered a great excuse to further an agenda. I agree Saddam Hussein was a horrible tyrant who committed horrible atrocities, but there are others like him around the world that our country seems to ignore. The argument that we needed to view Iraq differently since 9/11 carries some weight. However, if you look back at how things played out with our leaders contradicting themselves and each other during the march to war, I would say deception won over logic. There was NO IMMINENT THREAT as was implied by the Bush administration. Colin Powell, who presented before the U.N., even spent two-and-half hours trying to persuade George W. Bush not to invade Iraq. He obviously did not prevail.

Donald Rumsfeld made this ironic statement during that time:
"Some people lie and get away with it"

Five years later 4,071 U.S. military, 312 coalition and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives have been lost. Over 29,000 U.S. military personnel have been seriously wounded and many are not getting the care they deserve. The financial costs of the Iraq war are phenomenal. Over $516 billion has been spent thus far. That's estimated to be over $720 million a day / over $500 thousand each minute. Imagine what else those dollars could do for our country. There is widespread corruption within the Iraqi government and they recently reported a $6.4 billion dollar oil surplus. Meanwhile, we continue to sacrifice our young men and women plus use our tax dollars for an unjust war. It's our money and it could be put to better use here at home.

Secondly, It seems that the voices on the extreme right are getting louder and in some cases more violent in their rhetoric. Rush Limbaugh seems to have spawned a small army of drones that spread misinformation and distorted truths. Ruinous Right soldiers include Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and others.

Fox News Channel, a Republican mouthpiece masquerading as a neutral "fair and balanced" news source, is the most visible platform for these ruinous right soldiers to opine and distort. Some other news programs and channels may demonstrate bias, but none of them are so blatantly obvious in regards to a political agenda. Fox News seems to follow Republican talking points in an effort to spread misinformation and to further an agenda. The film Outfoxed by Robert Greenwald clearly documents this.

Overall, it has become a regular ritual for conservative pundits and intellectuals to infuse violence - particularly against Democrats or Liberals - into discussions of the major issues of the day. The result is the creation of a shrill discourse that silences opposition and destroys any chance for serious, civil debate.

The Ruinous Right blog is more about content aggregation than content creation. It's a side project to help spread awareness about the misinformation, distortions, violent language and destructive policies of some on the conservative right. It's also about turning people on to books, music and films that contain informative political content. The RR YouTube channel and associated focused channels are just as important, if not more important than the blog itself.

I'm just one person. A normal U.S. citizen without any formal political education. I have no ties to any political organization nor a defined political agenda. However, I am educated, I do follow politics and I VOTE.

What can one person do to change what's going on with the world? I don't know what one person can do except to connect with other people. In doing that, each of us plays a role. My role is to educate and spread awareness using the skills I have.

Q: If you could sit down with the top US officials and give the country, and the government your honest critique, what would you say?

A: Listen to the people. You work for the people.

Corporations and lobbyist have way to much influence over policy and you need to focus on the needs within the United States and spend less time trying to police the world. Only support governments that support human rights. Do more to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by investing more in alternative energy research and options.

Q: Tell us who you think has done a great service to the US, politically speaking, and who has been the biggest detriment?

A: I admire Colin Powell, Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton & Jimmy Carter. Each have contributed in some way to the advancement of peace abroad. Some have faults that I cannot deny, however we all have faults and that doesn't mean our positive contributions should be ignored. We should all be thankful for their service.

Dick Cheney, George W. Bush & Donald Rumsfeld have been the largest detriment to our country in modern times. They squandered the support of many nations after 9/11 in their defiant march to war with Iraq. The administration will certainly be listed as one of the worst in our country's history. I listed Cheney first, because I sincerely believe he is the brains of the operation (Some say he also has unexercised stock options and deferred salary with Halliburton - a war profiteer).

Q: Explain your personal philosophy on foreign policy, and National Defense? (What would you ideally strive for?)

A: As stated previously, I have no formal political education and I'm simply another citizen voicing an opinion and spreading awareness. That said, I think the U.S. should stop meddling in the foreign affairs of other counties. Concentrate on the problems and issues within our own borders and only confront other nations that pose a threat. I believe all political and economic options should be thoroughly explored and military action should always be a last resort.

"You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace."
- Michael Franti

Q: Do you feel that bipartisan politics works and serves the country well? If so, why, if not, what would you change?

A: No. I think there should be more influential political parties. I also think the primaries of each party should be held for all states on the same day just like the final Presidential election. The current long, drawn out process is flawed.

Q: Is it in your opinion that honest, open discourse on the hill, and throughout the US will prevail and serve to better the US government, or is it all a farce?

A: I believe it is possible otherwise I wouldn't be wasting my time with Ruinous Right. I've seen many young, old and middle-aged open-minded people taking action and spreading the ideas of hope and change. I believe the following year could bring forth a major turning point for our country. It will take a lot of hard work and we certainly have many obstacles ahead. I can only hope the ideals of this great country can be restored.

Q: Where do you see the US going (politically speaking) in the next five, or ten years?

A: That depends on the success of people left, right and center being able to communicate in a civil manner in an effort to find solutions to the serious issues facing us now and down the road. Again, this is a pivotal year in our history. More of the same or time to change course??

Q: Quick: 9/11 conspiracy or not?

A: Not.

Q: Do you think that some of the right-wing pundits you write about really believe what they are saying, or are they glorified shock jocks, with a political agenda? Furthermore, just how much damage do you think the pundit circuit has caused recently, and how do we right that wrong?

A: It's hard to say whether they believe their own words or they are simply in it for their own gain and bloated egos. I find it hard to believe any sane person could buy into some of the rhetoric coming from the ruinous right, but then again some people have taken their own lives to rendezvous with passing space ships.

A few select quotes from Ann Coulter provides some insight:

Arabs & the Middle East
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

Darfur Conflict:
These people can't even wrap up genocide. We've been hearing about this slaughter in Darfur forever — and they still haven't finished. The aggressors are moving like termites across that country. It's like genocide by committee. Who's running this holocaust in Darfur, FEMA?

The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man's dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and stripping.

Gun Control:
Apparently, even crazy people prefer targets that can't shoot back. The reason schools are consistently popular targets for mass murderers is precisely because of all the idiotic "Gun-Free School Zone" laws.

Unfortunately, this group is quite effective. Their strategy of spreading misinformation and distorted truths seems to be spreading to other media including right-leaning blogs. Many are filed with name calling, violent rhetoric and they offer little in regards to constructive ideas for the betterment of society or our country. Some comically opine about rude, mean-spirited liberals in posts filled with the same type of content and behavior they claim to be against. Any attempts at serious civil debate offering an opposing opinion often leads to more name calling and sometimes even banning.

Q: Finally, is anyone really certain that Ann Coulter is a woman?

A: I take offense at some people calling Ann Coulter a "%#$@* - &$!#% *#&$%!"

She's a lying %#$@* - &$!#% *#&$%!

You can catch Ruinous Right's latest and greatest posts over at RuinousRight.com