Author Archives: Robert Gore

He Said That? 6/21/18

Charles Krauthammer died today. Here are a few of his better quotes, some from his book Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics (2013):

I don’t really care what a public figure thinks. I care about what he does. Let God probe his inner heart.

In explaining any puzzling Washington phenomenon, always choose stupidity over conspiracy, incompetence over cunning. Anything else gives them too much credit.

The essence of foreign policy, is deciding which son of a bitch to support -in 1941, Hitler or Stalin; in 1972, Brezhnev or Mao; in 1979, Somoza or Ortega. One has to choose. A blanket anti-son of a bitch policy, like a blanket anti-ethnic cleansing policy, is soothing, satisfying and empty. It is not a policy at all but righteous self-delusion.

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil. For the first side of this equation, I need no sources. As a conservative, I can confidently attest that whatever else my colleagues might disagree about—Bosnia, John McCain, precisely how many orphans we’re prepared to throw into the snow so the rich can have their tax cuts—we all agree that liberals are stupid. We mean this, of course, in the nicest way. Liberals tend to be nice, and they believe—here is where they go stupid—that most everybody else is nice too. Deep down, that is. Sure, you’ve got your multiple felon and your occasional war criminal, but they’re undoubtedly depraved ’cause they’re deprived. If only we could get social conditions right—eliminate poverty, teach anger management, restore the ozone, arrest John Ashcroft—everyone would be holding hands smiley-faced, rocking back and forth to “We Shall Overcome.” Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything.

In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney handed down the Dred Scott decision upholding and extending slavery. Taney’s opinion was, it is generally agreed, “the worst constitutional decision of the 19th century” (the words are Robert Bork’s). Yet there is a curious and little known fact about Judge Taney. More than 30 years earlier he had freed his own slaves. Today, therefore, we would say that while he was “personally” opposed to slavery he did not want to “impose” his views on others.

History has blessed us with all the freedom and advantages of multiculturalism. But it has also blessed us, because of the accident of our origins, with the linguistic unity that brings a critically needed cohesion to a nation as diverse, multiracial and multiethnic as America. Why gratuitously throw away that priceless asset? How mindless to call the desire to retain it ‘racist.

 

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Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like, by Michael Krieger

Congress wants to allow the federal government still more power to tell you what you can and cannot put in your own body. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Allowing government to arbitrarily determine which substances human beings can put into their own bodies is one of the most idiotic things a society can do. As such, its no surprise Congress is salivating at the prospect of furthering this travesty by giving additional discretion on the matter to drug war-crazed loon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Reason published an excellent article on the topic in yesterday’s piece: Congress Wants To Give Jeff Sessions Unprecedented New Drug War Powers.

Here are some key excerpts:

If you think the Department of Justice has more than enough tools to wage the war on drugs, a bill passed by the House would create a fast-track scheduling system that could lead to the criminalization of kratom, nootropics, and pretty much anything that gives you a buzz and isn’t already illegal.

The House of Representatives voted on Friday to create a new schedule of banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, called “Schedule A,” and to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions broad new powers to criminalize the manufacturing, importation, and sale of substances that are currently unregulated, but not illegal. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where co-sponsors Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) will likely have little problem whipping votes.

The Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogs Act, or SITSA, is intended to crack down on drugs that closely resemble currently banned or regulated substances in either their chemical structure or intended effects. SITSA would also empower the attorney general (A.G.) to add drugs to this new schedule with few checks from other branches of government….

To continue reading: Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like

Online Retailers Lose State Tax Subsidy, by Wolf Richter

Online retailers will now have to collect the sales taxes their brick-and-mortar competitors have to collect. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Up to $13 billion in 2017. Brick-and-mortar gets some relief. Consumers not amused.

The US Supreme Court ruled today that states may require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on merchandise they sell in that state. The decision overturned its 1992 ruling – Quill Corp. v. North Dakota – that had blocked states from compelling retailers with no “physical presence” in that state to collect sales taxes. At the time, two years before Amazon was founded, the internet was dogged by “worldwide wait” dialup, and the idea consumers would buy everything from shoes to couches on the internet was remote.

The 1992 ruling eventually gave a huge boost to out-of-state online retailers in that they received a consistent state tax subsidy with every sale that their in-state and local competitors – brick-and-mortar and online alike – did not receive. At first, online retail was just a minor sideshow, but after a quarter century of booming, it has become the place to be, and the squealing from all sides about the tax subsidy has been deafening for years.

It amounts to big bucks. The Government Accountability Office estimatedthat state and local governments could have collected between $8 billion and $13 billion in sales taxes in 2017 “if states were given authority to require sales tax collection from all remote sellers.”

In today’s ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court sided with South Dakota, which had passed a law in 2016 that required large out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on merchandise sold in the state. Online furniture retailer Wayfair, along with Overstock.com, and online electronics retailer Newegg sued to block the law and won in lower court.

To continue reading: Online Retailers Lose State Tax Subsidy

This former trillionaire is flat broke, by Simon Black

Holding on to wealth can be harder than acquiring it. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

It’s hard to imagine, but today is actually Sovereign Man’s 9th birthday.

Nine years ago, on June 19, 2009, I sent out the first ever Notes from the Field email.

To commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d republish that first article… because I think it still captures the challenges we face, as well as the boundless solutions ahead of us.

I hope you enjoy.

=====

William “Bud” Post is flat broke.

He has dealt with lawsuits, jail time, bankruptcy, and now lives on food stamps.

It seems strange to think that he used to be a multi-millionaire… but it’s true. In 1988 he won $16.2 million from the Pennsylvania lottery (valued at $30 million in today’s increasingly worthless money), and Bud became drunk on his own wealth.

You’ve probably heard similar stories—the struggling, working class lottery hopeful hits it big in the Powerball only to return to the trailer park, broke, within a few years.

In irresponsible hands, wealth can evaporate faster than Nancy Pelosi’s approval ratings… and the lottery winners like Bud generally make bad decisions.

They become careless and foolish with their wealth, spending enormous sums of money on opulent consumer goods, gambling trips, and nights in the champagne room.

Banks line up to provide them with generous lines of credit that they blow on useless toys or handouts to a fawning entourage.

At the height of this bubble, someone like Bud has fame, wealth, power, friends, women, houses, yachts… but no foundation for the future.

Each trip to the ATM is a missed opportunity to make a smart decisions… but Bud never cared. He thought the money would last forever. He thought the banks would always give him a loan. He thought his friends would never leave him.

Then one day Bud went to the ATM and found that his balance was ZERO. He went to the bank for a loan and was declined. The money was gone. His friends had disappeared.

The lawsuits started rolling in. Suddenly poor Bud found himself with absolutely nothing but distant memories of drunken consumption.

Sound familiar? It should. Bud is the United States of America.

America hit the lottery after World War II. We had defeated the Germans, nuked the Japanese, and remained the only developed country in the world that had not been devastated by the war. The US instantly became the richest kid on the block, and like Bud, spent the next several years in an alternate universe devoid of rational thinking.

To continue reading: This former trillionaire is flat broke

An Elite Coalition Emerges Against a Trump-Kim Agreement, by Gareth Porter

There is a substantial segment of the American political and media establishment who don’t want the US to leave the Korean peninsula, even if Kim Jong Un, Moon Jae In, and President Trump negotiate de-nuclearization, a peace treaty, and a rapprochement between North and South Korea. In other words, they’re against the negotiations because they might succeed. From Gareth Porter at consortiumnews.com:

Media coverage of the Trump-Kim summit has highlighted a political reaction that threatens to torpedo any possible U.S-North Korean agreement on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, says Gareth Porter

An implicit coalition of corporate media, Democratic partisans and others loyal to the national security state are actively hostile to any agreement that would endanger the continuation of the 70-year-old Cold War between the United States and North Korea.

The hostility toward Donald Trump on the part of both corporate media (except for Fox News) and the Democratic Party establishment is obviously a factor in the negative response to the summit. Trump’s dysfunctional persona, extremist domestic strategy and attacks on the press had already created a hyper-adversarial political atmosphere that surrounds everything Trump says or does.

But media coverage of the Singapore summit shows that something much bigger and more sinister is now in play: a consensus among foreign policy and national security elites and their media allies that Trump’s pursuit of an agreement with Kim on denuclearization threatens to undo seventy years of U.S. military dominance in Northeast Asia.

Those elites are determined to resist the political-diplomatic thrust of the Trump administration in negotiating with Kim and have already begun to sound the alarm about the danger Trump poses to the U.S. power position. Not surprisingly Democrats in Congress are already aligning themselves with the national security elite on the issue.

The real concern of the opposition to Trump’s diplomacy, therefore, is no longer that he cannot succeed in getting an agreement with Kim on denuclearization but that he will succeed.

The elite media-security framing of the Trump-Kim summit in the initial week was to cast it as having failed to obtain anything concrete from Kim Jong-un, while giving up immensely valuable concessions to Kim. Almost without exception the line from journalists, pundits and national security elite alike compared the joint statement to the texts of previous agreements with North Korea and found that it was completely lacking in detail.

To continue reading: An Elite Coalition Emerges Against a Trump-Kim Agreement

They Were Ordered to Shoot… by Bill Bonner

Does “Just following orders” excuse criminality? From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” is a line from Jesus of Nazareth.

Typically clever, and almost evasive, it left open the mischievous question – “What is Caesar’s?” – for roughly 2,000 years.

Moral philosophers had been bedeviled for even longer: If you want to do the right thing, can you just obey the authorities… or do you have to figure it out for yourself?

Finally, last week, like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, legal and biblical scholar, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who previously distinguished himself by sponsoring a bill to name September 2016 as “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month” – handed down the answer.

More on that shortly. But first…

Dry Spell

The Dow was down again yesterday… but only slightly. That makes it the seventh straight day of losses for the index, the worst losing streak in over a year [more in today’s Market Insight].

Where it will go from here, no one knows. But there are good reasons to think that the “top is in.” If so, we’re in for a long dry spell.

If we’re right, U.S. stocks will “underperform” for many years. Readers are advised not to expect to get rich in the stock market, unless they are very lucky or well-advised. Las Vegas is likely to be more rewarding than Wall Street.

We’ll leave it to the technicians and cycle-watchers to make their own case. Here at the Diary, we focus on fundamentals.

Obviously, U.S. finances are worsening. Government deficits are increasing, just as the Fed is putting up interest rates. This is bound to lead to trouble.

But the bigger, or more insidious, problem is Caesar himself; he seems to want more and more things rendered unto him. And our observation is that the more Caesar gets, the less is left for everyone else.

To continue reading: They Were Ordered to Shoot…

The US Annihilated Raqqa While Allowing Thousands of Terrorists to Escape — Why? by Darius Shahtahmasebi

Raqqa would be slightly less inexcusable if the US had got the bad guys, but according to Darius Shahtahmasebi, they didn’t. From Shahtahmasebi at theantimedia.org:

Amnesty International released an explosive report last week, which described the US-led coalition’s disproportionate and indiscriminate war in Raqqa as the US-led “war of annihilation”. The report confirmed what some people have suspected for a while but few have dared to even talk about. Namely, that the United States and its allies have completely destroyed a Syrian city, and left almost nothing but death and destruction in their wake.

In coming to its conclusion, Amnesty researchers visited 42 coalition air strike sites across the city and interviewed 112 civilian residents who had survived the ordeal. The results of their investigation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, as approximately a year ago, Reutersdescribed the plight of one resident in Raqqa who found several of his neighbours lying dead on the street, with cats eating the corpses.

The report even details four cases of civilian families who, between them, lost 90 relatives and neighbours. One family lost 39 in total, all of them allegedly killed by coalition air strikes. This would also not be a surprise to anyone who cared enough to follow this story closely, particularly with the Intercept’s shocking article last year titled, ‘Entire families are being killed by US airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria’.

To be fair, US President Donald Trump did once say he would “take out” the families of Islamic State (IS) fighters. He also once asked the CIA why they delayed an air strike on a terrorist target so as to avoid hitting the house with his family inside it. In other words, the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s military superpower doesn’t have a clue how international humanitarian law works.

To continue reading: The US Annihilated Raqqa While Allowing Thousands of Terrorists to Escape — Why?