2004 Issues #1 to #16
Seventeenth Issue 10 January 2005
B M GM FMM S LT N L P
Buy this essay and others in Jim's new book Being Sovereign.
The Indomitus Report
2 February 2005
"If you look at all the real wars going on right now, you come across the same two weapons, over and over: the AK-47 and the RPG-7 - both Russian designs, and both older than your Dad. They're...already out there, millions of units...cheap enough to buy in bulk....This simple little beauty just keeps getting more and more effective. This cheap little dealie, nothing but a launcher tube and a few rockets shaped like two ice-cream cones glued together, has kicked our ass (and Russia's too) all over the world since back when the Beatles were still together....The Chechens fighting the Russian Army are so high on it they've switched their three-man combat teams from two riflemen and an RPG gunner to two RPG gunners with a rifleman to protect them."
Mr. Brecher goes on to note that the rocket propelled grenade launcher type 7 or RPG-7 has inflicted more than half of all USA casualties in Iraq. He explains the history of the weapon, as well.
Designed by the Soviets for use by infantry squads against tanks, armored personnel carriers, and personnel, the RPG-7 is a cross "between the two best shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons around, the Wehrmacht Panzerfaust and the US Army bazooka." It can "penetrate 300 mm of rolled steel - more than a foot of steel." To hit multiple targets, "the RPG gunner needed just one launcher and a sack full of warheads," or grenades.
As an anti-aircraft weapon, the RPG is a dangerous tool. It projects a rocket exhaust back through the launcher tube. Normally, the launcher is balanced on the strong-eye shoulder of the gunner, who aims and fires. The back end of that tube is pointed straight back behind him. The rocket propelled grenade takes off in front of him, leaving a trail of exhaust that points straight at him, and beyond. But if he points the rocket tube upward at a target in the sky, the exhaust hits the ground behind him, blasting dirt or rocks in all directions, and cuts the legs out from under him.
Mr. Brecher, again: "The Afghans worked out how to use RPGs as anti-aircraft back in the 80s, fighting the Soviets. I guess it was a little bit of poetic justice that the first helicopters to get brought down were Russian. ... There's nothing like war to bring out the inventor in people! One thing the Afghans figured out was how to use the self-destruct device in the warhead to turn the RPG into an airburst surface to air missile. See, the RPG comes with a safety feature designed to self-destruct after the missile's gone 920 meters. So if you fire on up at a chopper from a few hundred meters away, at the right angle, you get an airburst just as effective as surface to air missiles that cost about a thousand times more."
There is a back issue of Aviation Leak as we used to refer to it in the aerospace industry, from the mid-1980s which Deke Slayton contributed to the Alvin O. Carley Memorial Library of the Houston Space Institute, a project of the Houston Space Society. As we recall, this issue featured the Black Hawk helicopter and all its design features. Within those pages are a few paragraphs about the tail rotor attachment and the structure connecting that rotor to the main fuselage. The design is criticized for not being especially robust. However, the only small arms capable of disabling the helicopter at that location would be a rocket propelled grenade - and everyone knows you can't get a gunner to fire one up into the air, or he'll cut his own legs out from under himself with the backwash.
Unless he digs a trench. Or positions himself on a cliff edge. Or stands on a rooftop with a hole into the floor below. Or stands on the skeletal structure of a building under construction. Or on a crane. Or on top of a vehicle. Or the edge of a building. Anywhere he can stand and direct the backwash away from himself as he points his launcher tube skyward is good enough. Up goes the rocket, down comes the helicopter. Six helicopters were brought down in two weeks of fighting around Mogadishu at the end of September and beginning of October 1993. You can read more about that story in Mark Bowden's newspaper articles or his book. See it from another perspective.
Mr. Brecher, again: "It's got one of the shortest arming ranges of any shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons, which means you can fire it at a Hummer coming right down the street. It's light enough, at 15 pounds, for even the wimpiest teenager to run through alleys with. It's simple enough for any amateur to use....What happens when an RPG-7 goes up against our main battle tank, the M1 Abrams? ...The Army is shy about releasing info on this kind of thing....I do know that at least one M1 has been killed in Iraq by an RPG anti-armor round...."
Rocket propelled grenades are tools of war. Then again, so are rifles, hand guns, knives, and body armor. Indeed, so are skills such as gung fu. So, do we suggest that you go buy some RPG-7 launchers and suitable grenades? If you wish to do so, by all means, do be aware that there are various laws against contraband, against the unlicensed manufacture of such tools, and there may be registration and ownership restrictions in whatever jurisdiction you live in. Whether that should stop you, a sovereign individual, from acquiring useful tools of self-defense; or direct your acquisitions toward purchases of items and methods of purchase that won't get you listed in a government registry; or suggests that the time is now to get what you need - these are choices you have to take for yourself. Every sovereign individual has different circumstances. Ultimately, figuring things out for yourself and taking your own choices is the highest manifestation of the freedom you have.
Buying RPG-7 launchers and training with them may not be your thing. But you should understand how this weapon is changing the dynamics of power. Projecting power used to be cheap and easy. As Richard Maybury suggests in a recent issue of his newsletter, World War Two technology was about as cheap for offense as it was for defense. More recently, defenders have been having the upper hand. A Stinger missile costs $14,000 or so, and can bring down a $2 billion aircraft. That's an advantage to the defense of over 142 thousand times in economic cost, not to mention the comparative expense of training the crews for each system.
Consider the rocket propelled grenade. The launcher is reusable. The munitions cost around $40 per shell at markets like the arms bazaar in Sana'a, Yemen. A fully equipped Black Hawk helicopter represents upwards of $14 million of aircraft and related systems. That's an even greater advantage of some 350,000 times in economic cost. You can see where the economics of force projection have become unworkable.
Probably the first place this factor became obvious was in Vietnam. The Falklands War of 1982-83 made it even more clear - a single Exocet missile took out a major British warship which was lost with nearly all hands. The Afghanistan conflict from 1979 to 1989 was unworkably expensive for the Soviets - a government which was so bankrupted by its many efforts to project force in Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and elsewhere that it literally went out of business. These lessons were available from the battle for Mogadishu, but, unfortunately, that defeat came on the heels of a heady victory. Victory is such a poor tutor.
The first Gulf War was a great success for the liberators of Kuwait. It was possible to put together a coalition of dozens of nations from around the region and globe to combat the aggression of Saddam Hussein. It was possible to blitzkrieg into Iraq and cut apart the military of the enemy dictator. A dozen years later, with Iraq weakened by endless economic sanctions, no-fly zones, and with essentially constant monitoring of its military deployments of hardware and troops, the USA and Britain joined forces to use blitzkrieg again to invade Iraq and cut apart the military of the enemy dictator, liberate the country, help the locals celebrate the victory, occupy the country, capture the enemy dictator. And again victory is a lousy tutor.
The people fighting the USA and British occupation of Iraq now are not the military of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. Many are radical Islamists dedicated to removing infidels from their country. Many more are unhappy about the continuing occupation, the brutality, the searches, the seizures, the arrests, the tortures, the murders, the massacres of civilians. These people are equipped with small arms, with knives, guns, bomb-making materials - your garage door opener and cell phone are suitable materials for some kinds of bombs - and not a short supply of RPG-7 launchers and rockets. They are fighting in their country, for their country.
We expect they'll win. The economics of projecting force are unworkable. James Dale Davidson and William Lord Rees-Mogg make the same point in several of their books, notably The Sovereign Individual. The economics of force projection are broken, and it may be centuries before they work adequately again. Empires are through. Empires will fall apart, countries will Balkanize, the Earth will have ten or twenty thousand countries later this century or the next, and the Solar System will have millions of countries.
One of those countries could be yours. Take a mountain, fortify it, hire some friends to defend it with you, and live comfortably and secure. Take a planetoid, drill a core down its long axis, fill that core with water bags, surround it with mirrors, melt the entire nickel-iron asteroid, and when the molten metal hits the water it'll flash into steam. Presto, inflated habitat. Throw some NERVA-type fission rocket engines on one end, build a habitat inside, go to Pluto and get away from it all. Or run your planetoid around the Solar System as a huge luxury cruise ship.
The possibilities are as limitless as the universe. The opportunities are available to anyone with the vision to see them and the will to seize them. If you are ready to live as a sovereign, you ought to get a handle on this rocketry stuff. It has come a long, long way since the turn of the last millennium when the Chinese started packing gunpowder into bamboo tubes to make fireworks.
Free Market Money
"The central banking systems of the world are in their death throes. In the next two decades, there will take place a total discrediting of these monstrous blights on the economic stability of our civilization."
We like Nelson Hultberg. He correctly identifies the terrible ravages of the Twentieth Century with the banking cartel elites which established central banks, took over Czarist Russia, and financed the horrible wars, the terrible military industrial complex, and the civilian massacres that took hundreds of millions of lives. He also points to Antal Fekete's note that had the system of real bills in circulation, redeemable for gold coin, that lasted up until World War One, been left in place, the world would be incredibly more prosperous now.
His essay correctly identifies flaws in the 19th Century banking system. He correctly separates the evils of government licensed fractional reserve banking from short-term, self-liquidating credit such as the bills of exchange which still function today (albeit for fiat funds). He then goes on to describe a gold coin standard for the 21st Century based on the work of Dr. Antal Fekete and Hugo Salinas, among others. The plan includes gold and silver coins and a system of real bills similar to those described by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.
Then it all goes terribly awry. While the system appears to be based on moral, free enterprise methods, its implementation is dependent upon government.
Mr. Hultberg makes the classic error. We made it ourselves previously, so we do not claim to be blameless, and we are ever vigilant towards this difficulty in the thinking of others. Simply put, there is no "monopoly that the Federal Government and its central bank have over what constitutes money in our economy." None. There are no legal tender laws that "mandate our acceptance of the Federal Reserve paper dollars for business transactions and purchases." There is a law which says that the notes may be printed with the words "legal tender for all debts public and private" but there is no enforcement. There is no penalty for refusal. We have a newspaper clipping file of stories about just this misconception. There is no law against accepting other forms of money, and no law against refusing the Federal Reserve's form of money.
Accordingly, we object, strenuously, to the basic premise of Hultberg's proposal to break "the Demopublican monopoly." There is no need to involve the government. The US Mint is not needed to mint gold and silver coins. The Federal government should not send confiscated gold to state chartered credit unions, but rather back to the individuals from who it confiscated the gold or took the taxes in the first place. State chartered credit unions operating licensed fractional reserve are not necessary, nor are collective bargaining agreements, nor are the issuance of credit union bills of exchange. To the extent that these economic activities are desirable, they should be provided for in the private sector.
As there are no legal tender laws to repeal, and as letters of credit and bills of exchange are free enterprise created, tendered, and accepted items, there is no need to involve the government at all. Private mints, private credit issuers, private discount houses, and private merchants can make this parallel system work, and compete against the Federal Reserve and the banking cartel.
Moreover, Hultberg's plan, for all that it is based on sound economic reasoning by Fekete, still places the issue power of money in the hands of a state-licensed credit union. Friedrich Hayek warned us in 1976 that the only way to save civilization was to remove the issue power of money from government. It is the only way. Governments cannot be trusted with the issue power of money. They have never been trustworthy - not under the Khanate Mongols when credit was mulberry bast paper; not in the USA when the Continental was made worthless by a lying Congress; not in France under the National Assembly nor under the Directorate with their assignats and mandats; not in Britain with the paper pound; not in the Confederacy nor the USA with worthless paper notes and greenbacks; not in Weimar Germany with the mark; not in Nationalist China; not in South Vietnam; certainly not today.
In every instance where government was in charge of the coinage, debasement has resulted. In every instance where the government was involved in the issue power of money, hyperinflation and other economic catastrophes have resulted. Economics is too important to be trusted to politicians. The free market works. Those who dare to participate in the free market money revolution today shall reap enormous wealth tomorrow.
Here's how the stocks we presently suggest in this area look right now:
We hear the World Gold show in Vancouver had 6,000 attendees and 200 exhibitors. We are impressed, but these exuberant fans of gold stocks should start buying, and soon. The January effect seems to have come up empty in this sector.
We keep hearing good things about Mongolia. Jim Rogers writes favorably about it in his book, reviewed below. ISIL.org features essays about its once and current prime minister. We want to run the numbers on Western Prospector, which was exploring in Mongolia as we recall from the New Orleans show. Look for our review of their stock next week.
Free Market Money
Gold seems to be stuck in a channel, or pennant, or the handle of a teacup. Anyway, gold has been peaking at $427 and bottoming at $418 to $420 per ounce for several days now. If this pattern persists, there is obviously money to be made buying at $420 and selling at $427 - which must be what some others are doing. On the other hand, any international event could shock the system, probably spiking gold back over $432 for several months. We may see the usual Summer doldrums, but don't count on seeing these prices again.
Silver is also meandering around the $6.71 to $6.77 range. Not much action here, but this plateau is higher than previous post-peak plateaus.
Copper figures prominently in many of the gold mining sector stocks noted above. We're pretty sure copper is not making any dramatic new highs soon. It has tried to punch up $1.50 per pound and has fallen back four times now. We suspect a pennant formation should develop over the next few weeks. As well, the theory we've set forth since the 22 November issue has been that copper topped for this cycle. Does that mean it should now plunge? Nope. It means that we called the coppertop, not that you need to forget about copper. The next peak would be eight years from October 2004, so 2012 figure. How far down to the bottom? No way of telling. We expect the bottom of this cycle in four years, though three years would be eight years from the last bottom. It seems likely that the bottom this cycle would be higher than the last, so the peak in 2012 may be stupendous.
The three stocks we've suggested in this sector are PVH, GBH, and MCG. In one of the frequent miracles of thinly traded issues, all three are unchanged from last week. The chart below reflects change from the original suggestion.
We've heard again that GBH should be paying a dividend in April. We also heard a rumor that GBH would release earnings figures for 2004. The bid/ask spread seems to have narrowed.
We've heard again that PVH should be paying a dividend for 2004, though a small one.
TGC has posted its dividend for February, so MCG should be ex-dividend soon.
"If fixing the 14-year-old orbiting observatory costs $1 billion to $2 billion - as some at NASA have estimated - and comes out of the agency's space science budget, investigators who have studied the question have judged that it may not be worth the investment."
But if the repairs cost $300 million or $400 million to the space science budget, and the rest comes out of the space flight budget, that would work, says Joseph Taylor, a Princeton physicist at a House Science Committee hearing, today.
So, apparently it is okay to spend billions of taxpayer dollars building, flying, repairing, and upgrading Hubble, and hundreds of millions of space scientists budget fixing it, again. But, if it costs a billion or two from the space science budget, it isn't worth saving. Huh.
Isn't it amazing how everyone else seems to want something from government, but when it comes out of their piece of the pie, as already allocated in their minds, it has to be economical or it isn't worth doing? Amazing how greedy and avaricious and envious some people become when once they've gotten used to having their snouts in the swill trough.
One way for the cost not to come out of the space scientists "budget" over which they exhibit such territoriality is for the cost of getting the repair materiel out there, along with the cosmonauts, along with their training, along with some tasty profit to be allocated as prize money. Then anyone in the private sector could organize a salvage mission, get the work done, and claim the prize. Naturally, doing so with taxpayer money is still immoral. But, since the chances of it happening are less significant than the expected lifespan of a dewdrop in perdition, we need not belabor the point.
In other news, the lost star catalog of Hipparchus, described in his one surviving work Commentaries has been identified on the Farnese Atlas, a sculpture of Atlas holding a star globe on his shoulder. Louisiana State University associate professor of physics and astronomy Bradley E. Schaefer made the discovery recently. The star globe depicts the positions of the constellations, so careful measurement establishes that the only matching data set must be that of Hipparchus. As well, the descriptions in the Hipparchus Commentaries match the globe uniquely. More ancient wisdom, hidden in plain sight, recovered despite the deliberate burning of the great library at Alexandria by Roman soldiers.
Here's how things stand for the stock we suggested in this sector:
SpaceDev is at $1.70. It is up $0.20 since we first suggested it.
"Bush called on NASA to take $11 billion from existing programs, including aeronautics, and direct it toward space exploration. Langley [space center] was forced to discontinue some programs, including Next Generation Launch Technology and the Orbital Space Plane, representing about a quarter of its $770 million budget in 2004."
While the "savings" of $192 million sounds nice, it must be seen as money being wasted somewhere else within NASA rather than any true savings to the taxpayers. However, the news that both Next Generation Launch Tech and the Orbital Space Plane - both disastrous projects attempting to cut the legs out from under private space transportation companies - are cancelled is welcome news, indeed.
AdWeek mentions that Super Bowl viewers will see an ad featuring Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic rocketing into space, with a chance to win a trip on the tycoon's space tourism company's rockets as part of the offer. Volvo Cars of North America is also involved in the television spot. If you want to skip the Super Bowl, or Tivo directly to the halftime show in the hopes of seeing more middle-aged bosoms exhibited in "costume malfunctions" the hot tip is to register at BoldlyGo.com before 22 February 2005. And Boldly Go where...several hundred taxpayer funded astronauts and cosmonauts have gone before!
New Country Developments
"Think of the tens of thousands of people who do nothing but sit around at borders checking passports, checking visas, issuing passports, issuing visas, stifling mobility, creativity, and efficiency. Think of the massive amount of resources that could be opened to the world in the absence of their being there."
Jim Rogers writes a pretty good book. It nods in a few places and whines in others, but on the whole it is a nice book. People who wish to understand not only the many places in the world he's been but also the way parts of the world relate to each other, to Americans, to the USA government, and to the free market, ought to read this book. Adventure Capitalisttells the story of Mr. Rogers and his trip around the world with Paige Parker, who became his wife on 1 January 2000 as the last year of the Twentieth Century began, and Y2K didn't end civilization.
He writes at one point of managing the visa acquisition process as one manages vehicle maintenance and other chores of the road. He knows a startling amount about these topics, having traveled across China in 1988, around the world 100,000 miles by motorcycle - a journey chronicled in his earlier book Investment Biker, and around the world again, through 116 countries, over about 152,000 miles of roads and sea lanes, through fifteen or so war zones, to complete the journey described in his most recent book.
As we mentioned in our 22 November 2004 issue, we listened to Jim Rogers speak in 2003 at the New Orleans conference, and again in 2004, giving about the same speech both times. In the first instance, we were reluctant to buy his book owing to an earlier bad experience of him. In the second instance, we bought his book at the conference bookstore, reflecting that he might have some unique perspectives. Our bad experience of him was reconfirmed by his rude behavior upon our inquiring whether he wanted to travel to Somalia.
It was back in 2000, a busy year for us and our associate Michael van Notten, when we were first contacted by Jim Rogers's people. He was somewhere in Africa, on the road, and he wanted to find out about getting into Somalia. We provided e-mail addresses for Michael and ourselves and he was in touch through a couple of rounds of e-mail.
Of course, you can see his predicament. He and his new bride were traveling all over the world, planning their path as best they could in advance, but often unable to get visas that would be valid by the time they arrived at the border crossing to the country in question. Their expedition had begun in Reykjavik, Iceland on 31 December 1998 where they celebrated the New Year, traveled around the island nation, got rescued by the winter rescue squad, then rescued the same squad, and proceeded to the British Isles.
Why start in Iceland? Well, it is politically all Europe, but geologically it sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, so part of the island is on the north American plate, and part is on the Eurasian plate. It is the only place where one can drive from one continent to the other, geologically. So they did.
Next they went across Europe to the Balkans, across Turkey to the Central Asian collision zone, across China, by sea to South Korea and Japan, back to the mainland, through Siberia to Mongolia, across Russia to Europe, and got married in England as the last year of the last century was dawning. Then it was back across Gaul and Iberia to Morocco, down the West coast, and up much of the east coast of Africa.
Their predicament with respect to Somalia was that no country has a Somali embassy. There's no place to get a visa. So, they had to call for help. And the Awdal Roads Company was a logical group to contact. At the time, Michael van Notten was probably the most traveled Westerner in Somalia. Michael had been in Mogadishu in 1991 when the dictator was ousted, and gained reputation as "Bulletproof Mike" by walking through war zones all over the country. He was married to a Somali princess, so he also had the family connections vital to effective relationship building in a clan society.
The particulars are difficult to recall, but the rudeness does stick with one. Michael was explaining the need for a local abaan or patron in Somalia to be the protector for Mr. Rogers and his entourage. In addition to his wife, he'd brought a second vehicle equipped with camera crew and web logging team - certainly the first instance of global trek blogging ever. And it seemed clear he didn't want to hear about it. Michael was in the process of arranging an abaan to send people to meet Mr. Rogers and team at the border with Kenya or Ethiopia, when we received a discourteous e-mail essentially telling us not to tutor Mr. Rogers on the need for a local patron's assistance. We continued with efforts to resolve this difficulty, prepare the way, and remain open to communications, but in the end Mr. Rogers drove up the Great African Rift from Kenya to Ethiopia to Sudan, bypassing Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea - blowing past about four thousand kilometers of the east coast of Africa.
It is tempting to suggest that there is an underlying current of hypocrisy, as well, given the stated ideal of a world with no passports, no visas, and no border snoops, but seemingly unwilling to make any effort at courtesy while trying to gain entry to the only country in the world which has gotten rid of its embassies worldwide, has no contemporary passports, has eliminated its central government, and only provides ad hoc border control. But, of course, that would be unfair, because when one is so inured to the process of being processed by bureau-rats, when one has to contemplate the difficulties of movement across borders on the unseen horizon several countries in advance, when one is making arrangements with embassies ahead and behind to get into a country months away as was the case with Saudi Arabia, when one buys a visa from a seemingly legitimate embassy in Abidjan only to find another country or two along the way that the visa is a forgery and the subject country has no embassy in Abidjan, the pressure to have the reassurance that one has a "proper" visa and can make entry must be overwhelming.
Rudeness does create a lasting impression. So, we're "left with the aftermath of that," but on the whole the book is satisfying reading. For example, "Our reception stood in stark contrast to the treatment we received in Mali, for example. There we had come upon a billboard encouraging investment in the country, and our cameraman had been arrested for filming it (p. 182)."
Having spent decades studying African cultures, years planning projects there, and months on several different expeditions to the Horn of Africa, we completely agree with Mr. Rogers in his views on the difficulties with foreign aid to Africa, and his proposed solutions. For example, he points out that food aid in Ethiopia brings locals from around the distribution center cities by donkey cart and other conveyances for many miles, but they tether their animals and walk in to pick up the free grain provided by the aid agencies - most often taxpayer funded in the USA, Europe, or other "well meaning" places. "The poorer you are, the more food you get...so everyone parked his donkeys about three kilometers from town and walked the rest of the way. ... With their arrival, fifty-kilogram sacks of wheat stenciled with the name of the contributing country - some from the United States, some from Germany on this occasion - were distributed. While this was going on, glorious, lush fields all around Lalibela lay fallow because nobody farmed them anymore. An entire generation of Ethiopians has grown up without learning how to farm (p. 203)."
The problem is equally manifest in the charitable communities. Everywhere we went in Africa, we were confronted with middle-class functionaries of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) living well amidst the poverty of the people they were supposedly there to help, expressing scorn for their ignorance, contempt for their traditional cultures, and often slurs about their religious preferences. The experiences of the people subject to these scurrilous neo-colonialists reflects the fact that they are actually being exploited by charities. If problems such as malaria or cholera are resolved, or treated effectively, the NGOs have less misery to prey upon. An elder of the Muha'dassa clan of the Samaron great clan met with us in Lukhaya on the Gulf of Aden. The local NGO "Coopi Italiano" had been exiled from town and the building provided by the community - for the hospital the Italians had provided - had been taken back into the custody of its owners. No longer satisfied with the fees collected from governments in Europe and charities overseas, the NGO was now insisting on collecting fees for the treatment and care they had promised to provide in exchange for room and board, an unacceptable change to the previous agreement, according to the elders of the town.
This elder told us that he felt his people were being exploited due to their ignorance. We explained that his people were being exploited, and that the NGO game was dishonest and disreputable across the ocean where the money was seized from taxpayers or fraudulently obtained from charities, as well as in Africa where the "arrangements" for its dispensation were similarly channeled by avarice. In his book, Mr. Rogers relates numerous similar experiences of NGO functionaries and their behavior.
He also points out that most charity is misdirected. "Throughout the continent there are huge markets where one can find bundle upon bundle of T-shirts spread out for sale, donated by places such as the YMCA of Cleveland and the First Baptist Church of Charlotte. These and clothing of all kinds are given as donations in the United States destined for the poor of Africa, but by the time they reach the continent they are sold as a commercial product. Not only do they enrich the entrepreneurs involved in the traffic, they also put local tailors out of business. The tailors cannot compete, nor can the people who weave cloth, spin yarn, or grow cotton....In Africa, you used to see tailors everywhere. You would see them by the side of the road with their sewing machines. Now you see them only rarely. How can any of them compete with a product that the entrepreneur gets virtually free? (p. 204)"
His solution? Forgive the $350 billion or so in foreign debt, stop collecting the $26 billion or so in interest. Stop all foreign aid. Most of the aid goes to the corrupt bureau-rats in the various countries, and is converted into Mercedes automobiles or Swiss bank accounts in short order. (He points out that there are Mercedes dealers where there are no roads.) Africa can stand on its own. After all, the Egyptian civilization, that of Great Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia rose on their own and stood on their own for thousands of years in each case.
By preventing local farmers from farming, local tailors from tailoring, local spinners from spinning, local growers from growing hemp and cotton, and local ranchers from selling wool, the bureau-rats and banking scammers perpetuate the poverty on which they feed. The solution Mr. Rogers proposes is adequate to the purposes of Africa. It will not, however, be implemented in the presence of banking cartel corruption and corrupt governmental bureaucracies in Europe, north America, and the African countries themselves. The parasites which feed on the peoples of Africa are both local and foreign, and the infestation is itself healthy - the parasitic organisms are fat and happy though the host is ailing and suffering.
Fortunately, some people are waking up to these facts. The Somali people are leaders in this respect. The Somalis would brook no interference with their radio stations in Mogadishu when the UN sent Pakistani troops to censor the local media. The Somalis would not accept the USA Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos sent to hunt down Aideed, but kept him safe until his own clan elders realized that he was grabbing for power, at which point they had him executed. (Note, there were Delta Force commandos in Texas, come to butcher seven dozen women and children in that church near Waco in 1993, and nobody in Texas did much about it. Later that year, some of those same commandos were in Somalia, finding out that not everyone was reluctant to shoot at USA government soldiers.) In 1991 the Somalis threw out their dictator. In the time since, the UN has arranged for fourteen governments to be formed to claim control over Somalia - the latest hasn't even been willing to leave Nairobi, Kenya to make good on its claim and apparently won't without 20,000 foreign troops to accompany the new "president" to Mogadishu.
The Somalis have returned to their traditions. They have always governed themselves. They found no joy under colonialism, when Britain gave away Somali territory to Kenya and Ethiopia. They found no joy under the corrupt democracy of post-colonial Somalia, nor under the corrupt dictatorship of the Marxist Siad Barre, nor under his externally "reformed," pro-Western dictatorship of 1978 to 1991. Abandoning all European style governmental experiments as unworkable, Somalis went back to the way they had governed themselves for centuries. Mostly, they leave each other alone. They have ad hoc courts to handle disputes. They have ad hoc militias to handle military crises. When there is no dispute and no military crisis, there is only self-government - the judges and war leaders go back to running their businesses or caring for their herds.
It will be many years before the rest of the world catches up to Somalia. Every few months, NATO generals make rude noises about Somalia hosting al Qaeda, lies they circulate to justify their jobs. A new one cropped up at the end of December 2004 in Djibouti, railing against anarchy in Somalia, asserting that al Qaeda was organizing terror strikes from the "ungoverned spaces" of Somalia while ignoring his own country's "9/11 Commission" which reported that actual terror strikes in 2001 were organized from heavily governed spaces in Florida and Hamburg, Germany. Meanwhile, the Somalis are the finest entrepreneurs and capitalists on the African continent, building their own universities and vocational colleges, restoring their own fishing villages destroyed by the recent tsunami, and operating competing communications companies that provide the lowest international long distance and the highest quality cell phone service in Africa.
The next phase in the solution Mr. Rogers proposes for Africa is a conference in Kinshasa to draw new lines on the map. As he correctly points out, the 1884 Berlin conference which drew many of the present day lines on the map of Africa was arbitrary colonial power at its most capricious. Many of the worst wars and most serious ethnic cleansing massacres have taken place as a result not only of these arbitrary lines, grouping clans and tribes into a country or dividing a single clan or tribe among several countries (the Somalis, notoriously, divided by the European powers into five countries), but also of the rigid enforcement by the African Union, European powers, NGOs, UN, and various African states of these very same archaic and bizarre lines.
The lines have to go, no question. Africans should be free to direct their own destinies, just as everyone else in the world should be. The motivation for the conference Mr. Rogers proposes is sound. The Africans should choose their own borders for themselves.
The process, however, seems ludicrous on its face. The same bureau-rats which are the bane of everyone's existence, which serve in the diplomatic corps of various countries, which organize the border guards and the visa processes, while benefiting from corruption of these same processes - these people may not be trusted with anyone's destiny. Having a conference in Kinshasa to draw new lines is going to activate the five-star-hotel-seeking avarice of the bureau-rats in government and in NGOs. Soon the conference will be funded by the EU, AU, UN, and other busy-body entities.
Consider for a moment what this type of bureau-rat has done elsewhere. On his arrival in Bangladesh in February 2001, Mr. Rogers comments, "The country is the world's most densely populated, though the United Nations and other organizations may be helping to solve that problem. The Bangladesh International Network (BIAN), while we were there, filed suit against UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, NGO Forum, and other groups that were responsible for funding the sinking of wells contaminated by arsenic and other poisons....the groups cited in the suit had instituted a policy of digging shallow tube wells throughout the country. ...People are drinking poisonous water every day from shallow tube wells while policymakers and their implementing agencies continue to sink these. While World Bank's own figures claim 20 million people are currently at risk and 75 million are potentially at risk of arsenic poisoning from the tube wells, donors continue funding to sink tube wells...Rather than stop digging wells, international agencies were conducting the Third International Symposium on Reducing the Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Bengal Basin's Economies - the third - in the midst of what may be the largest mass poisoning in history (pp 251-252, emphasis in original)."
Or this episode, "In Delhi I had visited friends....With them was an American woman who talked about her upcoming trip to Myanmar. When I tolder her I would be there the following month, she grew indignant, claiming that US sanctions prohibited my going.
"'Why can you go and I can't?' I asked.
"'Because I work for an NGO,' she said. Terrific.
"'I'm going to Myanmar to examine the situation,' she said.
"'So am I,' was my answer. "Why should I let you go to Myanmar, examine the situation, and make a judgement for me?' Did I mention that we did not get along? (p. 259)"
In the face of this evidence, we submit that Mr. Rogers's idea of a Kinshasa Congress to divide up Africa would be a disaster. Every NGO in the world would send "representatives" to examine the situation. Every NGO would seek grants from tax-funded agencies. Every diplomat on the planet, funded by extorting and stealing "taxes" from peasants and productive individuals worldwide would show up. Every African country would send endless delegations with entourages to feast at the best restaurants, sleep on linen sheets in the finest hotels, and meet in the air conditioned comfort of the nicest conference facilities, for year, after year, after year - decades or more for such momentous work - while the taxpayers in their countries sweat and toil to pay the fees and taxes necessary to keep their overlords in comfort.
In his review of European monetary union, Mr. Rogers points up the folly of dumping all the euro-zone countries into one big pot. He suggests a more gradual approach would have had more lasting results, with monetary union between Austria and Germany, the Netherlands to be added next, and so forth. Of course, his prediction of the breakdown of European monetary union as the diverse countries refuse to limit their economic excesses, balance budgets, or reduce taxes, is one of those long term, many years in the future predictions. We agree with his analysis, though many Europeans would insist that no such breakdown may ever occur.
A Congress of Kinshasa would be a folly of proportions far greater than the Treaty of Maastricht. Most likely, the process would occasion numerous opportunities for junketeering by USA politicians, endless meetings in fine hotels for bureau-rats and arrogant NGOistas, and the kind of talking that leads nowhere but costs plenty, without obtaining a result of new boundaries for Africa. Worse, it might result in a confirmation that the power cartels want to keep Africa's borders the way they are, as they were handed to them by the Great White Fathers in far away Berlin in 1884. At best, the conference would result in a new set of arbitrary lines, drawn to the preferences of whichever set of elites was able to purloin the most representatives, gain the imprimatur of "international accord," and become the new reprehensible establishment excuse for repressing individual liberty, seizing guns, and restricting trade.
Europeans would be better off consolidating their economic activities and unifying their money and languages on an ad hoc basis rather than by centralized planning. Africans would be better off disaggregating their federal states on an ad hoc basis, and forming agreements at the local levels to establish new countries, new borders, and new alliances. Africans have always known how to trade. Based on the archaeological evidence, Africans invented trade and accounting. The ancient civilizations of Great Zimbabwe in Africa and the Indus River Valley in Asia certainly had trade and commerce with each other, thousands of years before Jesus was nailed to a cross.
The problem is the Roman Empire mentality of Europe, the USA, and many politicians in African countries. The borders of the Berlin congress are simply a manifestation of this central planning and control by various self-proclaimed power elites. While a dire symptom, promoting disputes, limiting trade and commerce, adding to the burdens of war and civilian massacres, the borders are a symptom. We cannot expect the alleviation of bad borders to resolve the problems of Africa unless the imperial attitudes are removed. Africans, led by men like Professor George Ayittey, white, black, and Arab, are extremely competent at solving their own problems. They've worked the miracles of smuggling and trade for hundreds of years in the face of monstrous bureaucracies imposed from afar, so of course they are competent to work out their own borders and form their own countries.
To put it in terms a Southerner like Mr. Rogers should understand, the conference he proposes for Kinshasa would be about as useful as "teats on a boar hog."
Buy his book. He's been to some fascinating places. He has a lot of great ideas. And where he's wrong, or rude, or arrogant, he is unapologetic. He invests where he will, he goes where others say "it is forbidden," and even when he makes spectacular blunders like buying glass while expecting diamonds, he admits his error and shrugs off the loss.
"Few people in 1980 thought that intervention into biological aging was possible, and many questioned why we would want to interfere with nature. We argued that aging was the greatest scourge afflicting humanity and that if people had the opportunity to live longer, many of society's problems would disappear. We based our philosophical arguments on theories that people with limited life spans are not particularly motivated to protect society's long-term interests, since they themselves have only a relatively short time to live."
Faloon continues, "When the FDA conducted its first armed raid in 1987, we had only 4,000 members. Thanks to publicity generated by the FDA's actions, this number grew to 25,000 members by the time our criminal indictments were dismissed in 1995."
As Faloon goes on to explain, what was unbelievable in 1980 is now accepted. The scientific community is working to unlock the secrets of aging. Reversing human aging is going to be possible, within our lifetimes.
Medinews.com reported today that Peter D. Adams of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia has released new results on the accumulation of senescent cells that change tissue form and function commonly associated with aging. Senescence is a permanent stage in a cell's life cycle and may underlie both the human aging process and aging related diseases such as adult cancers. The failure of cells to stop growing through differentiation or senescence can lead to the uncontrolled growth of cancer, Dr. Adams says. Both differentiation and senescence involve reorganization of the chromatin structure - the complex of RNA, DNA, and proteins called histones in the cell nucleus. The Fox Chase researchers have identified three proteins that contribute to the formation of senescence-associated heterochromatin foci (SAHF) which silence the genes that trigger cell growth. The study seems destined to help in the design of therapeutic treatments for cancer patients and to lessen some aspects of aging, especially in skin tissue.
Publication note: We prepared a special issue on the status of the free market money industry, so this issue is late. We couldn't resist the opportunity to celebrate Groundhog Day.
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