Friday, December 16, 2005

Just A Coincidence?

From the link:

On March 23, 2006, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate. The Board will also cease publishing the following components: large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements (RPs), and Eurodollars. The Board will continue to publish institutional money market mutual funds as a memorandum item in this release.

So the Fed is going to begin hiding vital statistics from the US people and the rest of the world about a critical measure of our money supply. It's bad enough that there isn't anything "federal" about the Federal Reserve as it isn't a branch of the federal government but, rather, a privately held institution. And to make matters worse, some of the "owners" of that private institution are banks outside of the US. And they have no "reserves" to speak of. The Federal Reserve is kind of like that little guy behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Do a search on the internet of "Wizard of Oz Federal Reserve" for some interesting reading.

Ah, but I digress. The question is, what else of international importance is scheduled to occur on or about the same time as the discontinuation of the Fed's reporting of M3?

If we remember back to this article from November we read that Iran is scheduled to begin trading oil for euros on their newly established Iranian Oil Bourse - IOB.

So the Fed's last report of M3 just happens to be the week prior to the first day of trade on the IOB? If countries like Japan and China and other Asian countries with their trillions of U.S. dollars no longer need them or require less of them to buy oil - does anyone suppose they might begin a wholesale liquidation of their U.S. Bonds (the primary instrument where foreigners 'store' their U.S. dollars)?

If foreigners begin wholesale liquidation of U.S. debt obligations, the Fed would have no recourse but to print the dollars necessary to redeem them and this would necessarily imply an absolutely enormous expansion of our money supply - which would undoubtedly be captured statistically in M3 or its related reporting.

What Sort of God Are We Talking About?

This caught our attention recently:

A new Gallup survey released today finds that four decades after the "God Is Dead" controversy was first noted, Americans retain a strong belief in a higher power. Some 94% think God exists.

Only 5% feel God "does not exist" -- and even most of them "are not sure" of that. Exactly 1% are certain there is no God. But how strongly do the believers believe? Nearly 8 in 10, in fact, say they are "convinced" God exists, although Gallup does not ask them why that is.

Conservatives are more likely to be convinced than liberals (87% vs. 61%), women a little more likely than men (82% vs. 73%), and residents of the South more than those in the East (88% vs. 70%). Surprisingly, some 61% of those who seldom or never attend church are nevertheless convinced that God exists.

The poll sampled 1,002 national adults, Nov. 17-20.

If a space alien were to observe our culture would he not think that Gallup got the numbers backward? It would be interesting to know what god it is that most Americans believe exists. Dionysius? Bacchus?

A poll like this is less meaningful than it could be if it does not provide some idea of what sort of god the respondents are saying they believe exists.

An Interview With Richard Dawkins

BeliefNet has an interview with Richard Dawkins. Here are some of the more provocative portions:

Interviewer: What are your thoughts about the despair some people feel when they ponder natural selection and random mutation? The idea of evolution and natural selection makes some people feel that everything is meaningless--people's individual lives and life in general.

Dawkins: If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it.

Interviewer: Is atheism the logical extension of believing in evolution?

Dawkins: They clearly can't be irrevocably linked because a very large number of theologians believe in evolution. In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution. Similarly, a very large number of evolutionary scientists are also religious. My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.

Actually, Dawkins draws a much stronger correlation between evolution and atheism in a speech he gave last Fall. You can hear what he had to say about the incompatibility of evolution and theism here.

The fact is that almost all of the more prominent writers on evolution say the same thing Dawkins says, i.e. that an understanding of evolution leads to atheism. It's obvious that evolution is a trojan horse for getting atheism into our schools and as such teaching it clearly violates the separation of church and state. The desire on the part of people like Dawkins to have evolution taught in schools is really an ill-disguised attempt to brainwash our children with atheistic materialism.

Does the foregoing sound a little extreme? Does it sound a bit laughable? If your answer is no, it sounds about right to you, then what justification is there for teaching evolution in schools? If your answer is yes, the assertions in the previous graph are absurd, then why is the same argument not considered absurd if we insert Intelligent Design in place of evolution and theism in place of atheism?

Interviewer: If you had to name top sources for optimism and hope in a naturalistic or materialistic worldview, what would they be?

Dawkins: I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought.

Here's another inspirational thought that follows from Dawkins' worldview: We're born, we look at the stars, and we die. So what's the point? For Dawkins' answer go back to the interviewer's first question and Dawkins' reply.

Dawkins says the following, and then the interviewer asks him about it:

Dawkins: Then there's the added fact that it is the only life we're ever going to get. Don't kid yourself that you're going to live again after you're dead; you're not. Make the most of the one life you've got. Live it to the full.

Interviewer: You've criticized the idea of the afterlife. What do you see as the problem with a terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife?

Dawkins: Oh, no problem at all. I would never wish to disabuse or disillusion somebody who believed that. I care about what's true for myself, but I don't want to go around telling people who are afraid of dying that their hopes are unreal.

Funny, we thought he'd just done pretty much exactly that just prior to the interviewer's question.

Stop and Think

The editors at National Review urge us to stop and think about what we are doing in adopting the McCain amendment and its blanket ban on "torture." Here are some key paragraphs in their editorial:

So, what is torture? Under CAT and U.S. law, it is the infliction of "severe pain or suffering." Bush critics like to ignore the word "severe" and pretend that subjecting a detainee to any pain is torture. It is not. While most people instinctively know what they consider torture - fingernails pulled out, electric shocks, beatings - defining what rises to the level of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is a trickier question. What, then, do McCain and his colleagues think of those methods that aren't included in the manual but don't necessarily constitute CID?

That's the key question. Given the way the debate is now playing out, if McCain's amendment becomes law it will be interpreted as banning almost every coercive interrogation technique. In dealing with captured terrorists, we will then be able to apply only methods formulated to deal with conventional soldiers in a different sort of conflict than the one that faces us now. This is folly.

The most constructive path forward would be for Congress to put aside legalisms and empty phrases and work its way through interrogation practices, starting with the least controversial. Is dietary manipulation "cruel"? Are cold rooms? Is sensory deprivation? Is being made to stand for hours? How about an "attention grab," i.e., shaking a detainee? Sleep deprivation? A belly slap? We think these methods would all pass muster in any rational debate, provided they are applied within reason (there is a difference between standing for two hours and twenty hours).

Then Congress could make its way to the most aggressive techniques, such as water-boarding, which simulates drowning. It has reportedly been effective in breaking high-level al Qaeda detainees within seconds, but is a practice with which most people would be uncomfortable. It is at least close to the line of what constitutes torture, and is certainly "cruel" in almost every circumstance.

But circumstances matter. Even some of the most fervent backers of McCain, including McCain himself, say we should torture someone in a ticking-bomb scenario, where saving a U.S. city depended on doing so. Such scenarios are unlikely in the extreme, but there are other exceptional cases that are more probable: for instance, the capture of a top-level al Qaeda operative who may have knowledge of a coming attack or know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

To deal with such cases, the president should be able to sign a finding - on the model of a finding authorizing an assassination - to use an extraordinary method like water-boarding. The definition of CID depends on context. While water-boarding may be unacceptably cruel if applied to 69,990 of the roughly 70,000 people we've detained since the war on terror began, there are perhaps ten top-level captives in whose cases water-boarding doesn't "shock the conscience," to employ the phrase often used in defining CID. Requiring presidential authorization in these cases would ensure accountability while shielding from criminal exposure the agent charged with obtaining information that could save lives.

The use of water-boarding and stress positions, etc. is unacceptably cruel only if the measure is used for wicked ends, i.e. to punish, to amuse, to inflict suffering for the sake of suffering. This is what torture is throughout most of the world, and this is why it is evil. Harsh measures employed, however, to save lives and which cease the moment they are no longer necessary is in a completely different moral category. Indeed, to conflate them is to commit the fallacy known as undistributed middle: Because two acts share a common feature they are considered to be in all important moral respects the same. Thus the execution by the state of a serial killer is often claimed to be morally identical to the crimes committed by the killer because in both cases someone is being killed. This is silly, of course, but it is, unfortunately, a common error.

To be sure, we need to be more vigilant than we have been in preventing the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading practices, such as occured at Abu Ghraib, but we should not prohibit the use of what are called "harsh measures" altogether without defining precisely how it is we are constraining ourselves. We need to know exactly what we mean by words like "cruel", "inhuman", and "degrading" before we tell the world that we will not resort to them. Is it cruel or inhuman to deceive a terrorist into thinking he's going to die when in fact he's not? Is it degrading refuse to allow a detainee unsupervised lavatory privilege?

We must also allow for the use of extraordinary measures in extraordinary circumstances. To say that we would never, ever use a particular method of interrogation like water-boarding no matter what the exigencies might be, is both foolish and immoral. It is foolish because although the technique is terrifying it causes no real harm and it is immoral because it places a higher premium on the welfare of a murderer than it does on the lives of his victims.