Evidence That We Are Ruled By Opinionated Morons

The author makes the startling conclusion, that opinionated policymakers have often caused monetary shocks by ignoring expert opinion provided by staff, acting instead, on information obtained outside of all the available data which staff has gathered.  I suspect that Romer confronted Obama with this evidence that the recent economic shocks we have gone through have been caused by bad decisions made at the highest levels of government.  As you can see in the first clipping below, the role of the Federal Open Market Committee is to make economic judgments that affect social welfare in America, either by limiting or loosening the money supply.  

image  http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~dromer/papers/aer_98_2.pdf

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Here we have evidence of egotism taking the reins of power, where policymakers ignore the most exact scientific “metrics,” as it is fashionable to say these days, provided by a committee of the most capable experts, to make arbitrary decisions based on personal opinions.  Much like the bad military decisions made by the former administration, the bad economic decisions were based on administration opinion outside of the wealth of data provided to them.

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According to the authors, they are making a careful study of FOMC transcripts, to determine whether the statistics prove that policymaker behavior led to specific economic shocks.  The following table reveals an average 20-30 % deviation between outcomes forecasted by staff versus actual outcomes based on decisions made by policymakers. 

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If the same standards were applied to American military policymakers by someone in the Pentagon, who was just as honest as Christina Romer, producing an equivalent study on decisions made—vs—the experts opinions ignored in our wars, we would have clear evidence that neither of the current ongoing wars was justified by anything other than the opinions of Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons . 

We are ready for a completely new kind of whistle-blowers, ones who directly challenge the egoism of the politicians who misrule this country.  Nothing they might reveal about the countless sins carried-out at the top will save us from the fate which their bad decisions have brought upon us, but it will prove helpful in sorting out the guilty.

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Pakistan’s rulers or Western puppets

Pakistan’s rulers or Western puppets

by Yousuf Nazar

Asif Zardari’s callous and indifferent attitude to his country’s woes has reached ”Neroic” proportions surpassing even the worst reputation of Yahya Khan during 1971. He appearance in a designer suit and pink tie with David Cameron served to reinforce the image of a hedonist completely unmindful of the misfortunes of a poor and debt-ridden country whose 51 percent people live in poverty and whose lives are nothing more than a daily struggle to survive often at the risk of their lives.

Zardari’s attitude and persona is typical of that of Pakistan’s corrupt and westernized elites who have looted the country and accumulated ill-gotten wealth locally and abroad. By going around in Paris and London like he did when around 12 million Pakistanis have been affected by the worst floods in history, he has personified the tragedy of Pakistan – its selfish elites who would sell anything to pursue their personal interests. His escapade’s to Manoir de la Reine Blanche (Manor of the White Queen) — a 16th century chateau he reportedly owns in France, before he visited UK highlighted how out of touch Zardari is with the sentiments and lives of the people. Pakistan is a hollowed state where much of the fortunes and future of its most prominent political leaders are tied to the West. Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz too own luxury apartments in London besides other interests abroad and MQM’s Altaf Hussain has been long beholden to the British for providing him a sanctuary and also their citizenship.

But let us not delude ourselves to believe that our Army leadership is any different when it comes to serving western interests and dancing to the tunes of the puppeteers in Washington and London. Zia and Musharraf were American puppets. Zia and his ISI Chief left fortunes for their families. Musharraf has been leading a comfortable life in London – the same Musharraf who mocked Benazir and Nawaz for living luxurious lives abroad.

One of Pakistan’s main causes of failure is similar to those experienced by many developing countries in the past. The nexus between corrupt local leaders and the West to serve their mutual interests at the cost of the often poor and impoverished masses and their future. Pakistanis will have to break this unholy alliance between the elites and the West if they want their country to be a self-respecting sovereign state that works to promote the interests of its people and not its Army or its corrupt and selfish elites.

The biggest mistake committed by our establishment and “moderately educated and enlightened” English-speaking chattering classes has been their refusal to see that military aggression by the US has been a major contributor to the radicalisation of public opinion in the Muslim countries, destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the destabilisation of Pakistan that could lead to its Balkanisation. Anyone who points that out is labeled as a Taliban sympathizer. This myopia will ensure that we are doomed.

Non-violent political solution means not only Pak Army should not use militants as a policy tool but also the US stops playing the Great Game in Afghanistan simply because it can no longer afford to, as it belatedly seems to be realising. US policy and Pak Army’s “wonderland” view of the strategic depth constitute the core of the problem. Both the US and Pakistani establishments are in it together.

ISI acts as an extension of the CIA at a very high level in the Great Game, notwithstanding disagreements and turf battles. In view of the long history of close ties and cooperation between the Pentagon and Pakistan Army, particularly since 1980, The ISI-CIA conflict appears to be largely a charade for the world to justify the expanded military presence in the region otherwise why would the US Congress earmark one billion dollars for “new and larger” US Embassy facilities in Islamabad. Does anyone really can believe with a clear head that a weak country like Pakistan (that is so heavily dependent on the US Aid and the IMF) can carry on this double game for nearly a decade until and unless it also is part of the bigger game of the US. Such a belief would be a silly assumption in realpolitik.

The US officials were saying not too long ago that there was no difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now they seem to be eager to reach out to the Taliban for a political settlement. If that was the objective, what was the fuss about al Qaeda being the biggest threat to the global security? Or was it not really but an excuse to build a military presence in Central Asia and Pakistan?

Baitullah Mahsud of TTP was guided by Mullah Omar as there was no difference between Afghan and Pakistani Talibans, claimed many US and Pakistani officials. But was it ever a secret that Omar was part of the Quetta Shura protected by the ISI. Who is trying to fool whom? Most Pakistani and Western analysts – many fed disinformation by the officials – can’t seem to think straight and see through the huge contradictions in the official positions of US and Pakistan.

How come Kayani (ISI Chief from 2004 to 2007) who presided over the resurgence of the Talibans on both sides of the Durand line during 2004 to 2007 and the worst violence during 2008 – 2010 during his tenure as Army Chief is so close to and favored by the Pentagon and not just that; the top US officials also supported the extension in his tenure.

This is nothing new or a conspiracy theory. Kayani has been favoured by the US for a long time. The Startfor, an influential US global intelligence company, reported on October 2, 2007 that “with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf due to step down as army chief by Nov. 15, Kayani will emerge as his successor, and given Kayani’s strong leadership credentials, Musharraf as a civilian president will be forced to share power with him.”

The New York Times ran a story “US is Looking past Musharraf in Case He Falls” on November 15, 2007 concluding that “at the top of that cadre is Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General Musharraf’s designated successor as army chief. General Kayani is a moderate, pro-American infantry commander who is widely seen as commanding respect within the army and, within Western circles, as a potential alternative to General Musharraf.”

Given that Kayani’s rise had been well anticipated and he was the ISI Chief and Vice Chief of Army Staff during 2004-2007 before he became the Army Cheif, it is difficult and almost incredible to believe that he had no hand in Zardari’s rise to power. He must therefore share part if not the whole blame on thrusting upon Pakistan someone who is nothing but an embarassment to the country. If he did it under American pressure, that is even worse.

The crux of the matter is that we must disengage ourselves from fighting US’s proxy wars and battles in the region, which have cost us more than the all the aid that we received. We need a national debate on a fundamental shift in our foreign policy.

I have tried to provide a framework for a basic and fundamental shift in our strategic and defense priorities in articles written for DAWN since 2006. This shift will have to start from the foreign policy. We are heavily dependent on the West and this must change in recognition of the reality that it is not a unipolar world and China is financially the strongest country in the world.

We cannot afford to pursue policies that cause tensions with all of our immediate neighbours – India, Afghanistan, and Iran – and are viewed with skepticism and unease by the Chinese. They support us and put up with our “too close for comfort” relationship with Washington because they also need us, but they never liked our support for the Islamic militants nor our very close ties with Washington. Hence, while they gave us a token amount during the financial crunch in 2008, they in effect told us to get the money from the West (US/IMF) because that’s how Pakistan is perceived in Beijing; an old friend who is sleeping with a global adversary – America.

We can no longer afford to fancy that we have a role to play in the “Great Game” or that we need to control Afghanistan to protect our strategic interests from Indian designs. Let us face it. We cannot fight a war for even a short while – few weeks at best – because we will go bankrupt and we would have to accept humiliating cease-fire conditions dictated by Delhi and Washington. Kargil provided a miniature sample of this scenario.

Most of the arguments advanced by our so-called strategic and military analysts, who support the establishment, are based on ill-informed and short-sighted considerations and half-baked notions about security threats. Indian hawks may talk tough sometimes but there is no question, whatsoever, of a military aggression from India because she is a rising global economic power and would never jeopardize its economic growth and billions of dollars in investment flows to have a fight with Pakistan – which is a small but troublesome neighbour.

Given the periodic episodes of Pakistan-linked terrorist attacks in India, it does play games in Afghanistan – with the full US support – and along the border but their significance is overplayed by our establishment to justify wasteful spending on F-16s. In any event, F-16s or nuclear bombs do not provide security but economic development does and that we must learn from China. The Army must re-evaluate the balance between our relations with the US and China. For starters, its leadership should try to have as close a relationship with the top Chinese leaders as it has developed with Admiral Mullen.

More seriously, there are six articles that I wrote for DAWN during the last four years that you may wish to read in the above context:

First one was “The gathering storm and its implications” in August 2006, http://www.dawn.com/weekly/encounter/20060819/encounter3.htm

Second was “Setting the record straight” in November 2006, http://www.dawn.com/weekly/encounter/20061125/encounter3.htm

Third was “Musharraf must face an open trial” in August 2008, http://www.dawn.com/2008/08/19/ed.htm#3

Fourth was “Need for a new era of strategic ties with China”, in October 2008, http://www.dawn.com/2008/10/15/top9.htm

Fifth was the “Axis of trouble” in December 2009, http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/12-the+axis+of+trouble–bi-07

and the last was “Limits of military power” in March 2010, http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/limits-of-military-power-230

Post Published: 07 August 2010
Author: Laila Ebadi

‘Sledgehammer’ suspects relieved while ‘Memorandum’ calls in sick

ISTANBUL – Daily News with Wires
Ret. Col. Ahmet Şentürk is the only suspect still under custody within scope of the
Ret. Col. Ahmet Şentürk is the only suspect still under custody within scope of the “Sledgehammer” probe. DHA photo

The 11th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes accepted the objections made to apprehending “Sledgehammer” suspects by the 10th Court on Saturday. The 102 suspects will be trialed without arrest in the case whose first hearing will be held Dec. 16. The 12th court stated that the victims do not have “fugitive status” since they show up to testify before when they were called, therefore they cannot be apprehended as “fugitive suspects.”

Sledgehammer is an alleged military coup plot against the leading Justice and Development Party, or AKP, drafted in 2003. According to the allegations, the military planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power. Those measures included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tension with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane and blaming the incident on the Aegean neighbor.

Meanwhile, some suspects of the “Internet Memorandum” case who failed to answer the call to testify last week, are reported to have illness reports from the GATA Military Academy Hospital. The “memorandum” is the allegation that the Chief of General Staff founded Internet sites to distribute propaganda against the leading administration of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

The suspects called to testify by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Öz included Gen. Hasan Iğsız, acting commander of the 1st Army and also the principle candidate for the position of Land Forces Commander, Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, acting North Area Navy Commander, and Col. Dursun Çiçek. The latter two are also suspects in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case. The remaining suspects are 11 active-duty soldiers, four retired soldiers and a retired civil servant.

Daily Taraf reported on Saturday that 10 of the suspects, including General Iğsız have reports from GATA while some of them failed to come to testify due to being out of the country.

Fixing American Dumbocracy

[The following article refers to a article written by former White House economic advisor Christina Romer.  It is unknown what influence (if any) the article’s publication had on her decision to quit her prestigious WH job, but you can read it here:

The FOMC Versus the Staff: Where Can Monetary Policymakers Add Value?]

Fixing American Dumbocracy

By Bill Costello
Education Columnist

By Bill CostelloThe world has been turned upside down: Socialism is on the rise in the U.S. and capitalism is on the rise in China. The former is a result of an uneducated electorate that fails to understand socialism’s history of producing poverty; the latter is a result of pragmatic leadership able to put aside communist ideology to embrace capitalism because it produces prosperity.

Thomas Jefferson, recognizing that the cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate, said that “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

Unfortunately, Americans are not well-informed about economics. If they were, they would have learned from the economic failures of socialism—in China, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and all of the other places where socialism took root—and elected a pragmatic leader who supports capitalist policies.

Instead, they elected Obama, an ideologue who supports socialist policies that promote big government, class warfare, and redistribution of wealth.

During the election, Obama demonstrated his lack of pragmatism and economic understanding on several occasions. For example, during a debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama said he would favor raising the capital gains tax “for the purposes of fairness,” despite the fact that doing so would decrease tax revenues.

This should have been a clue to the American electorate that punishing the rich is more important to Obama than improving the economy for all Americans.

Now that he’s in office, Obama is ignoring the advice of White House economic advisor Christina Romer, who published a paper with her husband in the June issue of “The American Economic Review” that concludes that tax increases kill growth. Obama is still raising capital gains taxes.
Ideology trumps pragmatism.

In the book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies”, George Mason University economics professor Dr. Bryan Caplan
argues that typical voters have strong opinions about economics despite the fact they never studied the subject. Those biases tend to compel voters to support economic policies that are not in their best interest.

For example, typical voters are irrationally biased against markets and interacting with foreigners.

This does not mean the democratic process is flawed; it means the American electorate needs to be better informed about economics.

China’s pragmatic leaders learned from the economic failures of socialism and decided to embrace markets, monetary discipline, and pro-capitalistic tax policies. China is being richly rewarded for that decision.

Obama, the ideologue, still believes in socialism. An uneducated electorate voted him into office. The U.S. is paying the price for that decision.

As developing countries observe the economic center of gravity shifting from the West to the East, China begins to emerge as an alternative model to the U.S. The long-held assumption that capitalism requires democracy is being challenged by China, which has adopted some capitalist ideas while retaining an authoritarian government.

To prevent the economic and political centers of gravity from shifting to the East, the U.S. needs an educated electorate that supports capitalism, not socialism. This can be accomplished by establishing mandatory economics courses at all levels of education.

Until then, the outcome of the U.S. education system will continue to be a “dumbocracy.”

Cardinal says Scots fed up with U.S. over Lockerbie

Cardinal says Scots fed up with U.S. over Lockerbie

By Michael Holden

LONDON | Sun Aug 8, 2010 5:36am EDT

(Reuters) – The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland launched a scathing attack on U.S. politicians on Sunday saying they were in no moral position to lecture Scottish ministers over the Lockerbie bomber’s release.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said there was a “culture of vengeance” in the United States and that many Americans were more interested in retribution than justice.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 bombings of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, was freed last year on compassionate grounds by Scottish authorities because they believed he had three months to live. He is still alive.

Most of the 270 people killed were Americans and Megrahi’s release and subsequent triumphant homecoming in Libya provoked an outcry in the United States.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is examining the circumstances surrounding the decision, but Scottish officials and Britain’s former justice minister have all declined to appear, generating further condemnation.

Last week four senators wrote to Britain’s foreign secretary saying it appeared British trade interests had “won out over justice” over the release.

“I think I’m speaking for many, many Scots people when I say we’re just getting a bit fed up of being lectured to by the United States of America as to how to administer justice,” O’Brien told BBC radio.

U.S. anger over the release resurfaced following suggestions British energy giant BP Plc had lobbied for Megrahi’s release. Both BP and Scottish ministers deny the accusations.

Questions about a possible BP role in the bomber’s release have complicated U.S.-British relations already frayed by the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

O’Brien contrasted Megrahi’s release with the use of the death penalty in United States, saying only Saudi Arabia, China, Iraq and Iran had executed more people since 1976.

He said U.S. politicians should direct their gaze inwards, rather than scrutinizing the Scottish justice system.

“Here in Scotland we have what we might call a culture of compassion, judging the guilty with care and compassion and certainly not executing them,” he said. “Whereas in America there is a culture of vengeance … in so many states.”

The cardinal said nothing could diminish the horror of the bombing but said he did not like to think Americans would be joyful at Megrahi’s death.

“I wouldn’t like to think so in a so-called Christian country,” he said, describing Megrahi as the “alleged murderer.”

“I’m just saying what many, many others have said that it’s alleged that he was the perpetrator of this crime,” he added.

“Courts have decided various things in Britain and America which have since been proved wrong. I’m not saying a mistake was made, I just don’t know enough about the law.”

(Editing by Jon Hemming)