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Hillary Clinton, Big Pharma, Media Meltdown, American Empire, Iraq War, TSA Security Excesses, Debt is not prosperity and more   (week of February 4, 2008)

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A Reader

My wife is a nurse working in a children’s psychiatric facility and therefore we have many discussions about the necessity of drugs. My largest complaint is that the reasons for the hormonal imbalances that cause many disorders are not known. Have researchers conducted enough studies on dietary and environmental factors?

About ten years ago a friend of mine ask me for advice when her doctor wanted to medicate her son for ADD. My response was for her to try engaging him in some strenuous physical activity. She did and now he is a talented gymnast, accomplished track athlete and an above average student.

I am not a doctor but I know how to listen to my body. When I have not gotten enough exercise I am irritable and find it hard to concentrate. After a good workout I am calm and focused. Perhaps cutting out to the greatest extent possible processed foods and simple sugars and getting plenty of exercise might be a start in the right direction in controlling not only some of these disorders but obesity and diabetes as well.

My wife also pointed out that because kids with ODD undergo therapy the only way insurance will pay for the expense is for it to be some kind of disorder, hence the lunacy of ODD.

As for the Clintons you gave a balanced view of your case. In my opinion, his failing to kill bin Laden was an enabler of the pre-emptive war doctrine installed by Bush. Clinton’s concern over the legality of killing bin Laden allowed him (bin Laden) to escape when we had him dead to rights on several occasions. (To understand this Imperial Hubris is a must read.) But the legal concern is the primary driver of the “we must be on a war-time footing to combat terrorism” argument.

Neither Clinton or Bush answered the USS Cole bombing (it happened on Clinton’s watch).

Hillary’s “healthcare for everyone” comes at the cost of choice as she would mandate insurance coverage. This, I would argue, is unconstitutional. However, the more individuals shirk their responsibilities to themselves and their families to the extent that it winds up being problem for society the more politicians can make the argument for larger, more intrusive government, less liberty and more socialism.

Hillary has come down on the wrong side of every important issue. This shows a lack of judgment and vision.

In my opinion, we should be wary of dynastic rule. It is time for fresh ideas and the Clinton’s are out of them.

America needs to move forward. Nostalgia is unreliable as it is usually base on distorted facts. The economic heydays of the Clinton era had nothing to do with his policies however they did help him look good (everyone looks like a genius in a bull market). That bull market is gone and the next president is very likely to reside over a broken and shattered economy requiring some very unpopular decisions.


I don't have time to respond in detail right now; but the problem, in short, with today's pharmacological solutions to mental illnesses has to do with American legal developments of medical conditions. Namely, legal and scientific decisions are very "concrete" in their analysis. They constantly seek some physical explanation -- and therefore physical cure -- for any problem. There is a good reason for this, but a movement toward "abstraction" (where there is no physical / chemical cause or cure) is a harder case to make.

Another problem, of course, is the need to profit from any "discoveries." It is inevitable that even good treatments will be overused purely due to the fact that private for-profit pharmaceutical companies will want to more than recover their investment in research and development.


Charles, not to hard to figure out. The people that created the laws that facilitated the housing bubble (elimination of fractional reserve lending standards in 1995, tax relief act of 1997) amongst others... and the people that inflate and deflate our money.... yes, they are the one and same people who own the mainstream media.

Tom H.

Thank you for your efforts to accurately portray the meaning of the mess hundreds of thousands of people, most of them well-meaning, find themselves in today.

I, of course, am talking about individual taxpayers, ordinary citizens, serfs, 'cannon fodder', you know, the ones P. T. Barnum was referring to.

I am disheartened by almost everything I hear/see/read in the media. I fervently hope people like yourself take advantage of every opportunity to point out the blogosphere is NOT included in 'the media', as we know it today.

PS With respect, I urge you to begin work on the NEXT 'bubble' to be foisted off on Joe Sixpack, and the one after that. Think renewable energy, alternative fuels, and so on. Maybe the kind of thinking needed to get out ahead of the curve will save some families from disaster as we, the people of the USA, try to find a way to survive. Thanks again.


Before opening your blog today I knew you must be a fan of Barak Obama. How could it be different? Clinton is supposed to be popular with the blue collar, less educated people and the Latinos, while Barak is popular with the well educated, and you certainly fit. But this is OK.

It always amazes me how easy to fool the Americans are. A few empty phrases in a bit more sophisticated language about how we should dare to change the statusquo, is enough to galvanize all the "educated" but otherwise empty headed "intellectuals".

You discuss the Clinton years accomplishments. You missed the most important one. He reduced significantly the military budget by hundreds of billions of dollars per year. I believe this was the reason that for a short period there was a balanced budget and some money was even channeled toward investment in infrastructure and higher education.

You live in the Bay Area. I am surprised you forgot that those 8 years were the best this region ever had. Isn't that an accomplishment?

Steven R.

You are spot on regarding Hillary. Thanks for not self censoring (-maybe now you know how your old editors felt when faced with which stories to run?).

Sad that we won't be making a more positive statement by electing the first woman president.

Same thing occured to me about her senate record. Sadly, I fear that the same will apply to Obama if he does not win this year (yes I voted for him as a lesser evil--wanted to vote for Gravel from Alaska but he is just not viable). He will have to try again in 4 (8 years if Hillary wins) years, during which his record will be defended by a calculated balance of stands on issues designed to appeal to all and thus appeal to none.

It would seem that the most electable candidates cannot have long national legislative voting records. Too many bills have toxic ingredients that catch up to the candidates. Or, alternatively, the longer they are in, the less distinguished is their record.

I always hate voting the lesser evil, and I seldom do. I actually believe Obama may be hiding his true progressive nature. But, a populist, at least, he is without doubt.

The night of the election an Obama org person called to ask if they could count on my vote. I changed the subject immediately to Naomi Klein's new book "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". She perked up at this and let me schpeal. I told her that it was a bit late for me to try and devise a litmus for the primary; but, I felt I could easily make my mind up on any candidate if they had read the book and would just answer a couple of questions about it.

I guess my assumptions about Hillary's answers are that, while she would sympathize with all of those suffering the symptoms of reckless implementation neoliberal economic reform, she would be basically deaf to the suggestion that a complete policy rework, including economic and political reforms will be required to repair the damage. My assumption, and I have no good reason for saying this, just a gut feeling, is that Obama recognizes the truly tectonic scale of disruptions in the offing (You write of these machinations and trends daily, Charles) and would make it the goal of his presidency to address. Of course, if he came out and said this, he would be considered a marginal candidate like Paul or Gravel. Strange, no?

I do not know if you have read the Klein book yet, or if its a little tin foil for your taste. I have to say that the main ideas it spawned in my mind have troubled me lately. First, where have I been the last twenty years? Did I really believe, like the line in the Jesus Jones song, history was no longer occuring? Or that any author could capture so succinctly the most important trends and changes, Globalization and it impacts, in 500 pages?

And secondly, the book got me thinking about the old Nazi Germany question: How is it that the German people did not see how they were becoming accomplices of the facist Nazi state. This second consideration got me to thinking: as Americans, are we culpable for the rise of, for want of a better word, Global Economic Facism, even as most of us are also victims?

I am not really referring to the more localized phenomenon of the loss of civil liberties as a result of Bush's war on terror and other abuses of his office. I think its true that more of us should have stood up, and accused the Bush Administration of trying to drown the Republic. But more than that, I am wondering about my own culpability for mountains of misery exacerbated by America's emissaries in the World. By not denouncing all of the IMF and World Bank strong-arming of debilitating policy adjustments associated with assistance to developing nations, I feel like I have been complicit.

The corporations have walked the earth like saurian super-predators. They have fed upon cultural resources, carefully husbanded institutions, infrastructures and the goodwill of the millenea and are now about out of easy pickin's. When the giant corpses fall, the descent to civil entropy will be difficult to avoid. The only hope for a civilized world to recover is ACCOUNTABILITY. America is now the nation most vulnerable to future human rights violation damages in a world court jurisdiction, much the way Kissinger must be linked to Pinochet and the abuses in Chile. Can we expect, if there is ever a trial, Corporations and their Boards to be accountable for the damages? By not standing up to Global Economic Facism are we in effect using a DIVINE RIGHT OF CORPORATIONS defense?

Any way, I know this is rambling. I have always felt powerless every time I vote. More so this year. I am starving and I am given the choice between a poppy seed and a mustard seed. Any chance you could cover Klein's book and invite the readers to weigh in?

Oh and this week I especially enjoyed the Readers contribution that dealt with "the rising tide that lifts all boats."


You wrote:

“His [President Clinton] inability to keep his trousers zipped up was the least of his failures as a leader.”

I understand why that is a popular viewpoint, and that many will dismiss the old fashioned notions of fidelity to ones mate, or maintaining propriety in the highest office of the land, as any great failure. But what I can’t get past is the appalling lack of judgment.

President Clinton was in the midst of the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. The plaintiff, as well as outside groups had investigators looking for evidence of Clinton taking liberties with subordinates. And this is when the leader of the free world decides it’s the right time to start trysting with an intern?

And when confronted with incontrovertible evidence, did our leader take it like a man? No, he squirmed and equivocated and gave us the spectacle of dozens of legislators sanding behind him while he shed some crocodile tears.

I would have had far more respect for him if he had just said he was a man, and he gave into temptation. But Bill, and I suspect Hillary too, seem pathologically unable to believe they are responsible for their mistakes. I’ve met enough people like that over the years to know they aren’t all that rare.

We’re already seeing signs of this with Hillary. After pledging not to campaign in Michigan, what did she do? Something that looked a lot like campaigning, but she insisted it was really just “fundraising”.

An Active Duty Reader

Your recent article titled "American Empire II: What Constitutes a 21st Century Empire?" has reminded me of an interesting site I saw a few years ago. I had the opportunity to visit China and happened to participate on a tour of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City (Zijin Cheng), as you know, is the imperial palace that was built to serve the emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasty. For almost five centuries it served as the ceremonial and political center of China. Only the chosen few and very high foreign dignitaries were allowed to see the palace until recently. It can dare be said that the Forbidden City represents the heart of China symbolically and historically.

And in this great place of Chinese empire, what do I see as I stroll through one of the main gardens? A Starbucks! I kid you not. It was a full blown café serving all the fancy coffee drink you may find in the states. The irony was too much for me to fathom. It was almost surreal. Starbucks, a symbol of western capitalism and values, right in the middle of the imperial palace. Needless to say, I enjoyed a cup of Americano right in the middle of China's imperial garden thinking about the following.

This experience has led me to think about what American Empire is in the 21st Century. As you have so succinctly point out, modern day empire is not defined by military might alone. I see three main pillars supporting today's American Empire. They are military might, financial influence and political will. Power projection based on a strong maritime presence is only one of three pillars. Without any one of them, the empire can not stand. Any one of these pillars can be used to further America's interest.

As a career naval officer, you may think that I would favor the military might. But my experiences in the Navy has taught me that a brute force while effective is never lasting. America's military might is probably the greatest force that a world has ever seen. At no time on earth has one country become so dominant in military affairs. But even this was not enough to change the will of people (Iraq).

If you truly want to change people's will, you have to make them want to change. And the best weapon to bend other's people's will is to use financial influence. If you create an environment where trade and commerce with U.S. favors them, they will want to change. And through capitalism, America's values and ideals will inevitably make the way into their culture and society.

The Start-bucks in the Forbidden City is a perfect example of this. Can you imagine the military resources required to put a Starbucks in the Forbidden City by force? It would cost billions of dollars and countless human lives. But using the other pillar of financial influence, a Starbucks was built in the heart of China without billions of dollars and human lives. If anything, America probably made a hefty profit from the venture.

I believe this is what Sun Tzu (Another great irony since he was a Chinese) meant when he said that the best way to win a war is to do so without a battle.

Lloyd L.

Interesting comments on national character, guilt, self-perception, manifest destiny and related. A lot of this will be of high interest as we go through another change of national administration and many calls for one level or another of involvement in places like Iraq.

Last evening I watched on "The Documentary Channel" a small program profiling a young news photographer -- Ron Haviv -- who has won awards for his work in places like Somalia, Iraq, Rwanda and other dangerous locations. There was a snippet that I found quite thought-provoking: Ron was discussing awful things he had seen -- and how they seemed to get worse as time progressed. He talked about how the news people were often right in the thick of things, and how by their presence had often saved lives (from immediate and unwarranted execution, for example).

In that moment, he digressed, and made the remark that "there was absolutely no doubt" that United States military involvement in places like Somalia and Bosnia had saved many thousands of lives. He then very thoughtfully said, with furrowed brow -- "but the U. S. takes it too far, and that's where things go badly." As I reflected upon this, in the context of the conflicts/interventions I have personally investigated, I think he is mainly correct.

There are exceptions, of course. Gulf War I perhaps the best example of recent times, and one can argue that leaving much of Germany, eastern Europe and Manchuria to Russian occupation in 1945 was a big mistake -- but Vietnam, Somalia, the entire Middle East cauldron all seem to exhibit what transpires when our nation expands justified humanitarian and stabilization efforts and moves into politicizing inherently unstable populations.


The problem with the war in Iraq is this. Since we decided (however we decided) to go to war in Iraq, then let's go to war.

It's been 5 years (longer than we were in WWII), and although we are "making progress", there's no end in sight. It's become an Orwellian endless war used to justify the continued expansion of the state at the expense of our liberties.

If we are going to war, then let's go to war. No handcuffs. No PC crap, no worrying about other feelings or bringing the people to court. It's war, plain and simple. If we aren't willing to do that (and obviously, by the actions of the last 5 years we aren't). Then we shouldn't be there, because it's a waste otherwise.

We could have conquered Vietnam in about a year had we choosen to in 1965. But they just wanted to "escalate" the problem. Well, if you beat one level, why can't you beat the next. Same problem as the bombing raids over the cities in WWII. All you do is intensify the hatred and encourage them to beat the next level.

War is a terrible horrible vicious thing and we should fear it's uses and use it where just and follow it thru to the end. If we aren't willing to actually wage war, then what exactly are we doing?

On the 2nd note. Again, back to the 5 years. After 5 years, why exactly can't the Iraqis pick up the defense of their nation? Are we waiting for the first babies born under occupation to take over the army in 13 more years? If the Iraqis don't want to take over, then what exactly are we doing? It's like welfare for nations? "we'll do all your fighting, and take all the heat, you just stay home and watch Iraqi Idol" (or Korean Idol, or German Idol, or whatever).


My experiences with the TSA in airports has been deplorable. One inspector went from chatting me up to threatening to kill me, because I raised my finger to point out how to unzip my bag. "Back off, or I'll have to do to you what we did to them (sic) in Dresden". I was flying to Dresden and I took it to mean he was going to firebomb me. He went on under his breath for five more minutes, as if he had just hung his hat, with nothing left to do that day but kick his dog. A total ego meltdown.

More recently at regan national My two year old and I were treated to the full screen, including xraying my toddlers shoes, and a dizzying array of non-instructions to go here and there...."What exactly am I supposed to do, carry her into the sniffer or go separately?" No answer.

As I was putting my whole yard sale back together I asked one of them where the car seat was? She told me it was not her job to find my car seat. I asked again, "where is my baby seat?...I can't go backwards, right?" She huffed off and delegated this task to someone else, who delegated this again. The seat got crammed under the table feeding the xray machine, "you know you really have to keep track of this yourself". This whole operation was crammed in a narrow hallway utterly at random. You had the urgency to get through pressing behind you and the absence of cues to guide you through. The whole thing reeked of the banality of evil. (emphasis added--CHS)

As I approached the security area on another leg, carrying a two year old, a stroller, back pack, diaper bag and a car seat, the inspector walked up to me, looked me cold and square in the eye, turned her fat ass to me as she roped me off into to the maze, "go around". There were maybe 8 people in the area.

This all reflects the mental illness, education and training of the TSA employees, certainly. But the absurd measures inflicted on us are also clearly designed to groom us to cower and comply. We are being relentlessly dehumanized by a brigade of these petty intimidations. It has nothing to do with protecting us.

Harun I.

I found yesterday’s missive of great interest. Men of experience and wisdom are discarded for "the dream". "The dream" being that something can be had for nothing. Ludwig von Mises warned about fiduciary media (credit money) long ago. But sophists argued that it hasn’t happened yet so it won’t happen, and the masses bought into the lie. The very idea that an economic system could have its foundation in the idea that credit (debt) is money, and is therefore an asset, and that in order for the system to grow continuously, debt had to expand exponentially, is just too incredible to believe. It is only now, as the lie is being exposed, the MSM is questioning the once unquestionable belief that a nation could strip itself of its productive capacity but its citizens could get wealthy through ever expanding debt. (emphasis added--CHS)

I don’t know if this is the "big one" but I can say with absolute certainty that the current system is based on a false premise and will end because it must.

"It is a [disputed] question, whether the circulation of paper, rather than of specie, is a good or an evil... I believe it to be one of those cases where mercantile clamor will bear down reason, until it is corrected by ruin." --Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson understood that the lie (clamor) repeated enough times, with enthusiasm, would trump truth and logic until reality imposed itself through insolvency on an unheard of scale.

But what about civic duty? Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Self-love... is the sole antagonist of virtue, leading us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others.”

Too many abandoned their moral duty to others by knowingly purchasing things they couldn’t afford without ever considering the consequences of these actions will be felt by the innocent as well as the guilty.

But let us not forget the false premise of pre-emptive war, Jefferson also wrote, "[When] the principle that force is right is become the principle of the nation itself, they would not permit an honest minister, were accident to bring such an one into power, to relax their system of lawless piracy."

Should McCain come into power our nation may get a belly-full of pre-emption.

In Thomas Jefferson’s time gentlemen did not campaign for public office as it was thought to be ungentlemanly and those who longed for public office were viewed with suspicion. I can remember when attorneys couldn’t advertise which forced them to earn clients on the basis of reputation.

Peter N.

This was a very interesting treatise on the decline of monarchy. . . .but midway through it seems to get vague in that it blends and blurs monarchy and communism into one concept, sharing attributes of "centralized societies"…it then starts to unravel a bit to me…

I would argue that in the really big picture, what is happening is that centralized power is far from being defeated….it is only shifting its origins, from monarchies and dictators, to extremely powerful and influential concentrations of capital….look at how our own govt. is heavily influenced by huge corporations…many would argue that the multinationals actually control our govt…..look at how China is going….it is only a matter of time before their large companies start "wagging the dog" of the ruling Communist Party, if not in fact having already started to do so….look at Russia, with more billionaires than any other country, although Putin seemed to fight this with some nationalizations….

Internationally strong concentrations of money and capital seem to be the long term victors in the struggle for power in the world…one could argue that the ultimate origins of this process began back in the Renaissance, when the rise of Mercantilism begat the Reformation, usurping the Pope and the monarchies, and so forth, blah blah blah…..I haven’t thought this through, but I respectfully disagree that democratic institutions are winning out….but I may be wrong…but it is fascinating stuff to discuss, please keep up the good work…

Thank you, readers, for such thoughtful contributions.

For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.


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