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Archive for March 6th, 2010

Tasers and Ray Guns – The “Soft-Kill” Option

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Harper’s has a sublime report on the Army’s latest weaponry, unfortunately accessible only to subscribers. Over the past decade and more, weapons manufacturers have been pushing the Pentagon on what they call “soft-kill”, non-lethal “crowd dispersal” machines. They can utilize sound (via ear-drum shattering frequencies), or, as Ando Arike describes in his report, intense microwave beams that heat one’s skin to 130 degrees, causing mortal pain – but, as the Pentagon hastens to point out, “non-lethal” pain.

The implications of a device of this nature are enormous. Ando cites a 60 Minutes piece, what he rightly calls “essentially a twelve-minute Pentagon infomercial” emphasizing the “huge numbers of  lives that could be saved” via this technology – the riots in Iraq we could quell peacefully, the protests we could “disperse” without firing a shot, etc. You know those darn Iraqis are always rioting over some fool thing or another.

More troubling is the recent deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team from Iraq to various American cities to help with “crowd control” in the coming social unrest as oil and other resources become scarce.

The obvious danger of these weapons, and what almost no mainstream outlet has bothered to mention, is that they will eventually be used against the American populace. The First Amendment rather explicitly states our right to assemble, but these weapons render that right obsolete. Who decides which gatherings have become “unruly”, for which “limited force is necessary”?

Unless the nature of their “movement” changes radically, I have little doubt the “Tea Party” protesters will have very much to worry about, but what of the anti-war protesters? One needs only to recall the various “anti-globalization” protests on which the US government employed tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound guns to see how far the government is willing to go.

In earlier days, governments often had no choice to break up a gathering except by lethal violence, and an arms race has developed for the most effective method to disperse crowds without killing them. As Ando remarks, the proliferation of digital media has given truth to the phrase “the world is watching.” – and no one likes a massacre.

Enter the “Ray Gun”. That rather slavish MSNBC article presents it in the brightest possible light, but the result still looks pretty grim. The thing makes you feel like you’re on fire, as Fox News enthusiastically reports. You have no time to think or decide what to do. Your only instinct is “Run.”

The practical value of this for totalitarianism must be enormous, but our press has shown it nothing but enthusiasm. This article from Gizmodo must be read to be believed (emphasis mine):

The U.S. military has developed a non-lethal ray gun that makes people feel like they’re on fire. Yes! It’s supposed to be used in places like Iraq and Afghanistan (where else?) in order to disperse crowds and get people to cooperate. It uses millimeter electromagnetic waves to penetrate the skin and raises body temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit near instantly. Combine this with other top notch U.S. military technology and it’s pretty easy to see why we’re number one, now and forever.

“Where else” indeed. I can just imagine some Pentagon hack writing with special care to inject some colloquialisms – to appeal to the kids, of course.

But even our hallowed institutions have succumbed to the Ray Gun’s unnatural charms, like the BBC, whose only quote is of a military flunky describing the device by saying:

“This is a breakthrough technology that’s going to give our forces a capability they don’t now have,” defence official Theodore Barna told Reuters news agency.

“We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010.”

Anyone who thinks these devices will only be used in Iraq or Afghanistan has some serious optimism. If the Army has already deployed several contingents to the US, and they have added this device to their repertoire, then I think it’s only reasonable to assume they will use it.

I’m not sure Ando mentions this in his article, but we can also drop this whole bit about the weapon being “non-lethal” and “harmless”. Anyone with a high-school knowledge of chemistry or physics knows that microwave frequencies are carcinogenic.

Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Posted in War

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Quote of the Day

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Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security

– Alexander Haig

Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Voices of an SEC Whistleblower

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Harry Markopolos tried for nine years to convince the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernie Madoff was a fraud and his company a giant ponzi-scheme. But, as he titles his book, “No One Would Listen”. Now, vindicated, he gives The Times an illuminating, if too short interview:

Why do you think the S.E.C. failed to wake up to Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme until he turned himself in?
They weren’t even asleep at the switch; they were comatose. They didn’t respond to heat and light, much less evidence of wrongdoing. They were not engaged in the fight.


This was when William Donaldson was head of the S.E.C.?
Donaldson was too tough on Wall Street, so he got the ax. Then you had Christopher Cox, because he wasn’t going to do his job. That’s why he got the job.


You met last year with Mary Schapiro, the current head of the S.E.C. How did that go?
I would say she was coldly polite. Her general counsel, David Becker, did most of the talking. He and I did not get along at all. He was getting ready to come across the coffee table and strangle me.

I definitely recommend reading his book. But in the meantime, shouldn’t somebody… uh.. you know, do something about this?

Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Stiglitz calls Federal Reserve “Fundamentally Corrupt”

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Joseph Stiglitz is an economist’s economist. Over the past decade he has emerged as the strongest and most consistent critic of securitization, globalization, and corporate fraud. His seminal 2003 Globalization and Its Discontents is a must-read if you want to get a handle on what’s going on now, and I have the feeling if more people in the White House had read it, we wouldn’t be in the embarrassing position with relation to the banks that we now find ourselves (that is, of peasants to their liege.)

So when this guy talks about the Federal Reserve, I think one should probably listen:

“If we had seen a governance structure that corresponds to our Federal Reserve system, we would have been yelling and screaming and saying that country does not deserve any assistance, this is a corrupt governing structure,” Stiglitz said during a conference on financial reform in New York.

Oh, and,

“So, these are the guys who appointed the guy who bailed them out,” Stiglitz said. “Is that a conflict of interest?” he asked rhetorically.

“They would say, ‘no conflict of interest, we were just doing our job,'” he answered. “But you have to look at the conflicts of interest.”

Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 10:19 am

Iceland Does the Right Thing – Refuses to Pay Absurd Debt

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And, of course, Times is spinning it like it’s a bad thing. During the panic of aught-eight, the Icelandic economy crashed, their currency, the Kronor, became nearly worthless, and 85% of their banking system collapsed. They were the first national victim of the securitization Ponzi scheme – the same scheme that’s currently threatening the EU. When the dust settled, Iceland found itself owing Britian and the Netherlands more than 40% of their GDP. As the Times notes, this would be the equivalent of America owing $5 Trillion (which we actually did borrow to fix our own crisis, but don’t talk about that.)

Icelanders are, naturally, incensed, and it looks as though they’re going to refuse to pay up. Their debt is equivalent to approximately $62,000 per household here, and just try and imagine if our leaders tried to get everyone to deduct $62,000. They’re having a referendum on the latest repayment plan, and no one thinks it’s going to pass.

However, this hasn’t stopped the Times from threatening Iceland with becoming an “international pariah” if they end up defaulting. Debts must be paid, after all – even to gangsters and con artists.

Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 12:13 am

Posted in Economy

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