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The Expansionist
Thursday, October 09, 2008
 
Stock Manipulators of Fear? Today's heading is like one of those "before & after" Wheel of Fortune puzzles, such as WHITNEY HOUSTON TEXAS. (That example was given by Wikipedia, and Whitney Houston was born in Newark, where I now live, so I'll stick with it. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was also born in Newark.)
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Hundreds of millions of people around the world are puzzled at the continued slide of stocks despite the economic rescue package approved last week. Let me suggest something I have not heard anyone else speak to: deliberate stock manipulation by profiteers intent on driving down stock prices for two reasons: first, to set themselves up for a big financial reward when they are able to buy stocks at artificially low prices, and second, to defeat the Republicans by inducing panic in the American electorate as to induce Americans not just to reject the current Republican ticket for President but also to jettison large numbers of Republicans from Congress, as to give a President Obama a strong Democratic majority with which to ram thru a hyperambitious legislative program, even more ambitious than Obama could now imagine, and utterly transform American society. And even if Obama should not win, due to racism, perhaps this horrendous economic nitemare can win for Democrats a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress, so they can legislate over the head of a Republican President, be it McCain or Palin.
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The first motive, personal profit, should be obvious. Say you own a very large block of stock in a major corporation whose future is uncertain. You bought it a few years ago at 100 (dollars). It went up to 105. But in recent months it has slid to 100 again. You see it is probably headed downward even if you hang onto it, AND that if you sell at 100, that sale in itself will produce a panic. So you sell. The stock does fall. That fits into a wider downward market. After a series of down trading days, the stock has fallen to 57, and you decide that unless the company fails altogether (and the sale of shares of stock issued years ago does not affect the current operations of a going concern), 57 is a terrific price. So you can afford to buy back the exact same stock, having "earned" $43 per share, a 75% profit in two weeks.
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There are two ways to make money in the stock market: buy low and sell high, or sell high and buy low, in that order. So speculators are happy to see the stock market fall, after they have unloaded their own stocks high. They stampede fools into selling good stocks at bad prices, then pick up bargains.
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The second motive of speculators is not at all obvious, however. One might expect Wall Street's "powers that be" to be conservative and to lean heavily Republican, but you might be surprised. Wall Street has been a congenial place for fund-raising for Democrats for a long time, and there are lots of Liberals among the traders. Some may have been chastened by recent events and think, "You know, we really have gone too far, and need more regulation — for our sake, not just the country's", and figure Democrats are more likely to enact salutary regulation.
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Others are concerned about issues beyond their personal profit-and-loss statements. In economics, they understand that the economy is healthiest when the most people have lots of money, disposable income above bare necessities with which to support a wide range of companies offering a wide range of goods and services. Conversely, the economy does very badly when only a few people have money to spend, and everybody else is watching their pennies. So the ever-intensifying concentration of wealth among the extremely rich is bad for the overall economy, and they understand that.
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But even beyond wide economic issues, they may be concerned about things like social justice, racial justice, world development and peace. Some of this might be enlightened self-interest. Some might be selfless devotion to the greater good. Even (some) stock brokers have a conscience.
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So if they feel that things have to get a lot worse before people will wake up and throw the Republican rascals out, they will contribute to waking the public to the catastrophe that Republican rule has been, and return the pendulum to the Democrats. Of course, if the Democrats remain in office too long, they are likely to become ossified, immovable, and stupid too, and Wall Streeters will have to work for their ouster too. But that's then. This is now.
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Other Topics, in (Relative) Brief.
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Don't Shout. WHY IS OBAMA SHOUTING INTO A MICROFONE? HE SOUNDS LITERALLY "SHRILL", NOT CONFIDENT AND CONTROLLED. YOU'VE GOT A MICROFONE, SENATOR. YOU DON'T HAVE TO SHOUT. JUST AS PEOPLE DON'T LIKE TO READ BLOCK-CAP PASSAGES OF LENGTH, YOU REALLY JUST SHOULDN'T SHOUT ALL THE TIME. IT'S ANNOYING.
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Take a cue from the present and past Presidents of France. They speak as tho they are in the bedroom, adoring their mate. The voice is deep, masculine, mature. They don't have to shout from fear that people won't listen unless they do. They know they have people's attention, and speak in a voice that is not just pleasant but also soothing, even sexy. They 'love' the French people, and the French people love them back.
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"Palling Around With a Domestic Terrorist", Your Ass. Why are liberals in media so timid about challenging the lie that, as I heard McCain describe it, William Ayers wanted to "bring the government down", when in fact his efforts were devoted merely to ending the Vietnam War, a disastrous and divisive conflict. Mind you, I believe the U.S. should have stayed and won in Vietnam, not betrayed the people of South Vietnam, Laos, and, especially, Cambodia, but it is REPUBLICANS who "waved the white flag of surrender" in Vietnam. So why are antiwar activists in the Vietnam era now being portrayed as radicals for advocating precisely what REPUBLICANS were to go on to do?
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The implication, especially for the ignorant (the bulk of the audience at Sarah Palin's campaign stops), is that William Ayers was a "domestic terrorist" AT THE TIME Obama served with him on the board of a charitable foundation, whereas in reality Ayers had abandoned radical activities decades earlier and is now part of the educational Establishment in Illinois, a state pretty much at the Heart of the Heartland. Ayers was opposed to the Vietnam War. The majority of Americans came to the same point of view, and it is REPUBLICANS who ran out of Vietnam with their tail between their legs, making a virtue of "cut and run".
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Winning in Afghanistan. The British commander in Afghanistan has said the war against the Taliban cannot be won. Bullsh(asterisk). That's like saying, in 1944, that the war against Fascism cannot be won, so we need to accept that and work merely to limit the successes of Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese militarism, not try to defeat those forces completely.
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Is it important that we win the war in Afghanistan? I believe it is.
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If we MUST win the war in Afghanistan, then we MUST do WHATEVER IT TAKES to win.
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A NATO force of 51,000 is losing the war. What would it take to win? If we had 15 million soldiers in Afghanistan, would we still lose the war? If it is obvious that we would win with 15 million soldiers, and will lose at 51,000, at what level of force between those two figures would we still win? If ground soldiers are not available in such numbers, what else would work? Would tactical nuclear weapons, or even strategic nuclear weapons, destroy the Taliban and the savages in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan who support them and who thus constitute a new barbarian invasion that Civilization must fite off, at any cost? If so, then let's use nukes. Violent mountain peoples have always been the enemy of settled populations: barbarism vs. civilization. In prior times, when hand-to-hand combat with primitive weapons determined the victory, the triumph of civilization was by no means certain. But now, when civilization controls technology of almost unimaginable violence, civilization can lose only thru failure of will.
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Think history. If we are in the position of the Roman Empire in 470 A.D., at the verge of collapse and the sacking of Rome by barbarians, but, unlike Rome, we have the wherewithal to defend ourselves by killing millions of barbarians, do we consent to have our civilization destroyed, or do we kill millions of barbarians? I have no problem deciding between those alternatives.
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In conquering Gaul, which is the only way Roman civilization became influential enuf and long-enuf established to come down to us two thousand years later, Julius Caesar may have killed as many as 40,000 Helvetians in one campaign. It's hard to find hard numbers for the dead, but according to Caesar, 258,000 fewer people returned to Helvetia after the war than set out before it. Even if many dropped off in neighboring lands and others were sold into slavery, that leaves a lot of people who died. The population of the entire world at the time, 58 B.C., was at most 400 million. 40,000 dead would thus have been 0.01% of the total world's population. The same percentage today, at a planetary population of 6.7 billion, would be 670,000. As for the entire Gallic war:


Over a million Gauls, it is estimated, were slaughtered in the course of Caesar's conquest; even more were enslaved. As one historian says, "Requisitions of food and punitive devastations completed human, economic, and ecological disaster probably unequalled until the conquest of the Americas."
(A brilliantly readable version of Caesar's campaign against the Helvetians is online in the form of a blog, "Bloggus Caesari: Weblog by Julius Caesar".)
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One million dead in 58 B.C. equates with 16,750,000 dead today. The population of all of Afghanistan is about 32 million; of the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, about 6.5 million, for a total of 38.5 million. We could kill 43% of the combined populations of Afghanistan and the Tribal Areas and not exceed what Julius Caesar had to do to secure Roman civilization.
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As for the European conquest of the Americas, nobody really knows how many deaths that entailed, nor by what mechanism (diseases indeliberately introduced by contact with Europeans, serial warfare, privation, merciless slave labor in parts of Latin America). The numbers often bandied about, of hundreds of millions of people having been in the Americas before the white man arrived, are almost certainly hugely exaggerated, but aboriginal American populations did decline steeply for a couple of hundred years. They are now up to perhaps half of pre-Columbian levels in the United States and may be higher in other parts of the continent.
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Should we have failed to settle the Americas because of the deaths entailed in the establishment of our civilization? If we could not have settled the United States without causing many deaths to people already here, then what? If we could not have ameliorated conditions and done things differently, as would have made the Indians full partners in creating our civilization, but the only choice were to create the United States at the cost of Indian lives or return to Europe once we realized there were lots of people already here, what would morality require? What would civilization require? What would have happened to the rest of the world if the Americas had not been settled by Europeans, (a) at all or (b) for hundreds of years? At end, then, we have to ask, (1) Was the establishment of our civilization worth the costs in the past, including the deaths? and (2) If we simply have to kill millions to preserve our civilization, do we do that, or instead consent to have our civilization vanish?
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I am not a saint. Nor do I aspire to be one. I do not consent to the destruction of my own civilization just because preserving it might require mass death elsewhere. I believe that good people can conclude that the welfare of the world requires the preservation of American civilization, and almost no price in the lives of our enemies is too high for the benefit the planet stands to gain from the preservation of the United States as a great, powerful, and influential civilization.
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It's not as tho we haven't killed millions already. World Wars I and II killed some 60 million people in the 20th Century alone. The Civil War killed 620,000 Americans on the two sides. Should we simply have let the South secede, and retain slavery to this day, if that had been (white) Southerners' majority choice?
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There are times when civilized people have to make hard choices, and large numbers of people can die as a result of those choices. That's where the duty to warn comes in.
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We can tell Afghans that we are 'dead' serious that their war against us must end. They must stop growing crops to poison our people and kill Americans 10,000 miles from their poppy fields — or we will KILL THEM. They must destroy the Taliban and end its plans to train terrorists to attack us — or we will KILL THEM. And we won't try to distinguish too finely. If poppy fields cover an entire valley, we won't target individual fields or the houses of individual growers. We'll just nuke the whole valley, with a hydrogen bomb that will vaporize the drug crops and kill the drug growers over the entire blast zone, some 150 square miles, with an intense radioactive fallout zone of 800 square miles. So either they crack down on the scum among them, or we will inflict collective punishment and kill them all.
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Perhaps a single hydrogen bomb will persuade the Afghan barbarians that we are not playing games and will not consent to a decades long war of attrition but will end the war quickly by mass death to Afghans, even to the extent of ending Afghanistan as a political and cultural entity forever. So we won't have to drop a second. It took only two atom bombs to persuade Japan to surrender, and Japan is much changed, for the better, as a result of that surrender.
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U.S. reticence to inflict mass death to preserve itself is not universally shared. Israel is happy to visit mass death on non-Jews. One website estimates Iraqi civilian deaths since the U.S. invasion, which was ordered by Jerusalem, at between 88,263 and 96,350. Another website, however, puts the figure much higher: 1,273,378. Add that to the half million (or more) asserted to have died during the sanctions between the first Gulf War and the Iraq invasion, and you get 1.75 million dead in Iraq alone. All that for the defense of a country that today, at its highest population, has only 5.5 million people (Jews, that is, the only people who can reasonably be termed "Israelis"). Then there are all the military and civilian deaths in wars against Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, plus people killed in places farther afield by Israeli bombing, from Iraq on the east to Tunisia on the west. Add the people assassinated in the Occupied Territories. And the people who died prematurely due to abysmal living conditions inflicted upon Palestinian refugees. And on, and on. Now Israel wants the United States to launch another war against Israel's enemies, this time Iran. John McCain, who might become President if the racist vote is high enuf, has already sung of bomb-bomb-bombing Iran. Hillary Clinton swore to "obliterate" the entire country of Iran if it were to attack Israel. And no one high in U.S. Government or media backs away from continuing to kill massive numbers of people for Israel. But for the United States? No significant number of people should have to die to save the United States.
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Israel needs merely to merge into unified Palestine to end the danger to its people. Jews worried about their future in Palestine can emigrate. Most of them IMmigrated, either themselves or their parents, so EMigrating should be no big deal. Jewish culture has never, in over 2,000 years, been dependent upon occupying a particular piece of real estate. Indeed, it is easy to argue that Jewish culture in Israel is inconsequential, and the greatest accomplishments of Jewish people have been achieved elsewhere, especially in the United States.
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Unlike Jewish civilization, which is not dependent upon occupying a particular piece of real estate, American civilization does rest upon the survival of the United States in its current territory (if not also more territory). Oh, if some cataclysm were to destroy the United States as a political entity, an attenuated American civilization would doubtless continue in the people we have already influenced, and in the remnants of our civilization in the Homeland, just as Roman civilization survived the end of Roman political unity in the West. But it wouldn't be the same, and the heirs to our civilization wouldn't be able to make the same kinds of contributions (to, for instance, preserving habitat and both spurring and funding planet-wide economic development), at the same levels, as an intact American civilization is able to do.
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We thus have the moral right to defend our civilization. We dropped nukes on Japan to do that. We can drop nukes on Afghanistan too.
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It is, by the way, essentially impossible to find the total number of people who have died because of the creation of Israel. That info has either never been put together or is carefully concealed. Certainly it does not come up in early results for searches on strings like "deaths caused by Israel". Why is that?
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,180 — for Israel.)



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