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04 May 2013


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William R. Cumming

How do you think Secretary Hagel is doing? I was an advocate for his appointment!

How do you think Secretary Kerry is doing? I opposed his appointment!

The Twisted Genius

Caps up 2-0 in their series against the Rangers. GO CAPS!

Hockey... the one team sport I always enjoyed playing and watching. Caps games at the Verizon Center are electrifying. Here's two recent reasons why I love the game.

Steve Oleksy takes a puck to the face and is back in the game minutes later. Minutes earlier, he made the sweetest pass I've seen in a while.


Canadiens goalie Carey Price gets a tooth knocked out. He skates it over to his bench. Drops it into the hand of a medic and immediately heads back to his goal to continue the game.


Warren Zevon said it best.

Some have the speed and the right combinations
If you can't take the punches it don't mean a thing


Really interesting link:


r whitman

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Time to thank the Mexicans for Margaritas, tacos, tortillas, enchiladas and tamales.

robt willmann

1. The report to congress for 2012 by the federal Department of Justice on applications to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for electronic surveillance and/or physical searches has come out. It says 1,856 applications were made, none were denied by the court, and one was withdrawn. Used much more of course, since no search warrant application is required, were the unconstitutional "national security letters", to the tune of 15,229 requests via the letters involving 6,223 different United States persons; these numbers exclude requests for telephone subscriber information only.


2. Reports say that Israel has made more air strikes into Syria "early Sunday" (5 May).




Do you - or anyone - know how to access Russian Television news directly. The long report from Tel Aviv is as fine a piece of journalism as one could hope for. Beats anything on BBC or wherever - leaving aside the childish stuff we get here

Doug Tunnell

Credible ?



This week I came across a 2010 article published in the American Conservative magazine by Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the Killing Fields. He lays out quite a damning case that hundreds of American Vietnam war POWs were indeed knowingly left behind after the withdrawal of US forces, and also that John McCain, Dick Cheney, and others were instrumental in covering up this fact for reasons of political expediency and discrediting the significant amount of evidence indicating that captured American servicemen were alive in Laos at least well into the 1980s/90s.

I would like to ask if Col Lang or others are familiar with this article and could provide their insights into these claims. To me, Schanberg seems credible as does the information he cites. If true, this would seem a crime of almost unimaginable cynicism, not to mention one that would cut to the heart of our amoral political establishment.


Charles I

See if your channel is here.


IF not Google its name eg RTV watch online or something similar.

A million years ago you could download free "World TV 500 channels" apps and they were mostly foreign news, sports & weather channels but I'd guess its all streaming now.

Charles I

if you google your pharase:

know how to access Russian Television news directly

you get this response page


the second item of which claims :watch Russ tv news


Search and be satisfied, just type your whole question in.


how have you been. I remember our chat in Crystal city. I was in VN right before the armistice and in a unit concerned with PW rescues. Actually I was the J-2 of that outfit. needless to say I was pretty well informed of the situation. then, when I was an executive in DIA I took an interest in all the noise about this subject even though I was not in charge of the office directly involved. In neither case did I ever learn of anything that would make me believe that the US government left anyone behind in SE Asia who did not want to stay there. there were several of those. pl


Could you load the Redwings a couple goals? They've come up a bit short recently. Nice win my Minnesota over the Blackhawks this afternoon. Hockey, gotta love it even if I didn't grow up with it.

Charles I

try these:





William R. Cumming

What air defense systems are employed by Iraq?

Alba Etie

And Red Fish Veracruz ..

The beaver

From rawstory:

Clifford Kiracofe

"Eight people - four Saudi nationals and four Tanzanians - have been arrested in connection with the bombing of a new Roman Catholic church in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha on Sunday.

The Saudis were detained as they tried to cross into Kenya, police said.

At least two people were killed by the blast, which President Jakaya Kikwete condemned as "act of terrorism".

The Vatican's ambassador to Tanzania and the archbishop of Arusha were in the church at the time of the attack.

Archbishops Francisco Montecillo Padilla and Josaphat Louis Lebulu escaped unharmed.




Please enlighten us, Col.


I encourage all those interested in our current economic and financial policies to read Paul Singer's letter to limited partners at the funds managed by Elliott Management, courtesy of Zero Hedge.

Paul started Elliott in 1977 and has had a long track record of extraordinary financial performance with substantially less volatility than the S&P 500 index. I can personally attest to that performance as an investor in his funds over several decades.

His is the currently non-consensus and non-Krugmanite view. IMO, investors that don't consider Paul's investment opinions in their thinking do themselves a disservice.


William R. Cumming

Zanzibar! Thanks for the link and even as the Dow crosses 15,000 IMO Singer hits the nail on the head!

David Habakkuk


Thanks for the reference to that very incisive discussion of the perilous course on which our central bankers are steering us. There is interesting overlap with a 2002 paper by the British economists Andrews Smithers and Stephen Wright, entitled ‘The Economic Consequences of Mr Greenspan.’

(See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=298028 )

I think a perspective from outside economics may also be useful. In discussions on SST over the years, the question of how far apparently secular belief systems are actually transformations of religious ones has been raised. And I have argued that the kind of American nationalist vision set out in Fukuyama’s 1989 ‘End of History’ paper is, just as much as Marxism-Leninism, a secular transformation of a Christian vision of God’s purpose as being at work in history.

The kind of ‘individualism’ which Fukuyama portrayed as the ineluctable destiny of all mankind is actually – as the French anthropologist and intellectual historian Louis Dumont repeatedly stressed – a distinctive creation of Western civilisation. In his classic – and highly controversial – study of the Indian caste system, Dumont reworked Tocqueville’s distinction between ‘aristocratic’ and ‘democratic’ society, to contrast what he called ‘holism’ with ‘individualism’.

The former involves a view of society as an hierarchically ordered structure, in which of necessity individuals cannot be equal, and their freedom is necessarily constrained. In the latter, where society is conceived of as an aggregation of individuals, in principle all individuals are equal, and all are entitled to liberty.

The belief that a system of rationally self-interested individuals naturally produces optimum outcomes – in particular, that such a system naturally tends to equilibrium –
is the product of a quasi-religious faith in individualism.

Again following Tocqueville, Dumont is concerned to argue that the decline of hierarchy in Western civilisation is a process with deep roots, which make it ineluctable. At the same time – and also following Tocqueville – he is concerned to argue that the catastrophes of post-1789 European history – including the world wars, and the tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin – are not, as Fukuyama appears to suggest, simply the result of ‘individualist’ principles not having been fully absorbed.

Whatever inadequacies the arguments of Dumont – or indeed Tocqueville – may have, both point to the critical question of the preconditions for the successful operation of an ‘individualist’ society. Their concern is with the political sphere, but the question is quite as relevant in the economic sphere.

The extent to which this whole range of questions has been lost sight of was apparent in the clear assumption of the architects of ‘shock therapy’ in the former Soviet Union that, if one simply smashed a deeply dysfunctional system into atoms, these would rearrange themselves in something resembling a well-functioning market economy.

Likewise, it has been apparent in the way that a whole range of elements of latent instability developing in the economies of the West since the late 1990s – in some ways, indeed, having their origins significantly earlier – were ignored by policymakers and mainstream opinion alike. It is symptomatic that the Fed is now in the hands of a figure whose whole career has been built on an – untestable – argument that a different monetary policy after the 1929 Wall Street collapse could have averted depression.



Thanks for the reference to Andrew Smithers paper. I recall it well. The moral hazard created during the past few decades in our financial architecture is nothing short of astounding. Every principle of prudence has been thrown by the wayside.

Clearly ideology and related groupthink are now believed with much more fervor by certain groups. In that sense you are right that these secular ideas have the same faith-based belief system as religious ones. We see this in many spheres from political to economic and even health. In your opinion what accounts for the degradation of moral principles which have a close alignment with periods of strong religious faith?

John Law with his monetary experiment at the court of Louis XV, appointed as Controller-General of Finances to deal with the issues of insolvency created by the wars of Louis XIV, ultimately in many ways led to the chaos of the French revolution. Insanities of expedience have also happened in hierarchical societies.

IMO, Fukuyama's End of History reflects the classic recency bias. I have always believed at least over the past few decades that the rhetoric of free markets was just a facade to promote private interests using the force of government. Cartels inherently despise competition and focus their attention at capture of governments. IMO, the founders of the American republic recognized this and tried to enshrine a limited government in a written constitution. But governments and bureaucracies by their very nature grow inexorably unless checked by the people. A flaw in a democracy is that the people can be bought with their own money or at least their children's.

One of the things that I notice as I read SST is that US foreign policy for example is not anchored in US interests. Take Iraq for example, what did the neocons and their fellow travelers in government and politics achieve for themselves? It does not seem that it is material gain or plain intellectual satisfaction that they seek. The only explanation seems your hypothesis of faith-based, quasi-religious beliefs.

In the economic sphere, I believe the situation is slightly different. Over the past several decades politicians and policy makers have come to believe that there is indeed a "free lunch". Consequently, the west has been able to enjoy a standard of living well in excess of their actual productivity through the substitution of debt. Now we have reached the next phase when debt has to be monetized in ever greater amounts. Here, I think the dynamic is that no politician who informs the people that they have to learn to live within their means will get elected. And the mandarins have to articulate a faith-based intellectual framework to keep the psychology of faith in the current fiat monetary system. There is no incentive for the Statists to take the hard decisions of reform and restructuring. I have a lot of respect for Paul Singer as a great macro-thinker of the financial landscape. He believes we have already crossed the rubicon of monetary extremism. In his opinion if we don't see sustained economic growth soon (which I am personally very doubtful because we have not restructured the system yet); Bernanke, Yellen, Kuroda, Carney, et al will not become more circumspect but even more deranged. That is frightening to contemplate for the social cohesion of our societies. I am hopeful that the psychology in the currency and/or bond markets will change before such a catastrophic outcome.

David Habakkuk


A lot to think about! Let me focus on a couple of matters.

‘In your opinion what accounts for the degradation of moral principles which have a close alignment with periods of strong religious faith?’

It is a question which puzzles me, and all I can do is hasard some tentative observations about changes in Britain. One used here to have a quite complex interplay between different cultures. Anglican culture was largely upper and middle class, and tended to vote Tory, while nonconformist culture was much more lower middle class and working class – and much of it voted first Liberal, then Labour.

Partly no doubt because of the need to justify their elite status, both in the eyes of others of themselves, in the face of challengers to that status, traditional Anglicans not uncommonly had a sense that privilege entailed responsibilities. Traditional Tories, meanwhile, although they could be cynical and unscrupulous, often had a sense of limits beyond which they would not go. The nonconformist ethos – which used to be very strong in the Labour movement, even among people who had turned their back on religion – sometimes produced humbugs, but often people of very great personal probity.

If I had to guess at what had changed, I would focus on three elements. The influence of the religious cultures has become weaker, without their being replaced by any effective secular system of moral education. At the same time, the combination of the disappearance of old social elitisms and any serious ideological challenge from the Labour movement has had ambivalent implications. The frozen snobberies which used to characterise much of the British elite have weakened, but so also has the sense that privilege must justify itself.

Also relevant, I think, may be a reversion to a nineteenth-century pattern of internalising economic theory as a moral system. Among the corollaries of the disintegration alike of traditional socialism and traditional Toryism has been not simply the triumph of free market fundamentalism, but of a view of bankers and others as the ‘masters of universe’. Even many who found them deeply uncongenial had come to accept that they understood how the economic system worked, and knew how to manage it, and that that their activities were the key to the prosperity of all.

It may partly be because they internalised that vision – and did not face any substantial challenge to it – that today’s financial elites have become so predatory. And by the same token, it may partly be because they have internalised that vision that so many of them appear largely unaware of the scale of the resentment unleashed by the financial crisis.

David Habakkuk


“And the mandarins have to articulate a faith-based intellectual framework to keep the psychology of faith in the current fiat money system.”

This brings up one question which puzzles me. It appears to be taken largely for granted among American – and British – elites that it is possible for Bernanke to act as a kind of reincarnation of John Law, without his doing so fatally undermining the dollar-based international financial system.

One can certainly see a number of considerations which might be taken as validating this confidence. So, for example, given their enormous holdings of U.S. debt, and also the dependence of their whole development model on exports, the Chinese have a very strong interest in avoiding any precipitate collapse in the ‘psychology of faith’ in the dollar-based fiat money system.

And yet one would also assume that they must be aware of the fact that the levels of debt in the U.S. and other Western economies are so great that there is no prospect that they will ever be repaid in full. Moreover, although this may be very hard for American and British financial elites to understand, confidence in their competence in the wider world – which was high not so very long ago – is likely to have largely collapsed. People in Washington and London may have confidence that Bernanke or whoever succeeds him can manage a Houdini-like exit from the hole into which he is boxing himself – it is unlikely that people in Bejing do.

So one would expect that the Chinese, and others, would be caught between two sets of pressures: on the one hand, the pressure to collude in maintaining the ‘faith-based intellectual framework’, and the other, the pressure to minimise the damage they will suffer from its collapse, which they are likely to know is overwhelmingly likely.

Compounding the problem here is the fact that we appear to be heading into a world of ‘currency wars’ – and in these, as Michael Pettis has stressed, it is the creditor nations, rather than the debtor, which are most at risk. Moreover, as you have noted, citing Kyle Bass, currency wars can take one down a slippery slope leading to actual wars.

What we have already seen is a widespread movement away from dollars as a medium of exchange in international trade, in favour of bilateral agreements. It seems a great deal less clear how far the Chinese, and others, are making contingency plans for the collapse of the current international currency regime, and if so what these entail.

But one would tend to think that all kinds of people must be anticipating that, at some point, there will have to be some kind of ‘reset’ of the international monetary system, but – in general – find it prudent to keep their thoughts to themselves.


A short history of "The Federalist" and a first edition going for a tidy sum.


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