By Liberty Report Staff
A couple of weeks ago Wikileaks released their first installment of CIA leaks called "Vault 7". After the public learned about how the CIA could exploit internet-connected smart devices and turn them into surveillance microphones, some started to question their Alexa and Google Home devices.
The replies from the devices went viral.
It's now several weeks later, and some people are still checking up on their devices.
See how Google Home responds now to the question "Do you know what the CIA is?" .... Oddly enough, it doesn't really answer the question.
(h/t - Wikileaks)
By Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
35 years ago, I was worried. I was working at a free-market think tank at a university, and I could see that Austrian economics was becoming less and less influential.
Who would speak for untrammeled freedom and capitalism? Sound money and no central banking? Would economics entirely betray its great advocates of liberty from Menger to Mises, in favor of monsters like Keynes and Marx?
Who would teach students the truth, and inspire them never to give up or give in? To dedicate their lives to the ideas that build civilization, and fight the left-wing destructionists?
Just as bad, for me, was the lessened interest in Mises himself. I had worked with him 14 years before, and although I was very young, the experience changed my life.
Here was the economist of the century, a world-class genius in his writing and teaching, and a hero in his deeds besides.
Progressives, New Dealers, Communists, Nazis — nothing could stop him. Neither could the resulting hardship.
When a boy, he had adopted a motto from Virgil: “Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.” Until his dying day at 92, despite oppression and proffered inducements to compromise, he never betrayed that principle.
I knew that not only did we need his monumental scholarship, we needed his personal example.
Yet just 9 years after his passing, there was a palpable lack of much interest in the ideas and the man.
I determined to do something about it. First, I invited Margit von Mises, his widow, to lunch at her favorite restaurant, the Russian Tea Room in New York City.
As you can imagine, I was on tenterhooks as I asked for her blessing in establishing a Mises Institute. She was delighted, and enthusiastically served as our chairman as well.
Next I approached Mises’s greatest associate, a world-class genius himself, Murray N. Rothbard.
We were walking in Manhattan at the time, and when I told Murray of my plans, he turned to me and clapped his hands in joy.
Ron Paul was a huge help, as were Henry Hazlitt and F.A. Hayek. I was surrounded by giants, while defending one.
Over those 35 years, what fun all of us at the Institute have had. Fun in achievements. Fun in fighting the bad guys.
Of course, we could have done nothing without our benefactors. As Mises noted, entrepreneurial ideas are a dime a dozen. Having the necessary capital is both rarer, and all-important.
Our faculty, students, and supporters in all walks of life have also been essential.
Thanks to you, and so many others, we have been able to do much good. Through teaching, research, conferences, publishing, social media and the internet, we have been able to touch the minds and hearts of millions. As a result, Mises and Austrian economics are far better known and therefore far more influential. How that is needed!
We have taken on the Fed, the welfare state, the warfare state, the power elite, Keynesianism, socialism, and every other excrescence that afflicts society.
We do not compromise with the state, nor those who promote it. As a result, young people all over the world — not to speak of teachers, business leaders, and writers — look to the Mises Institute for leadership. There are now 26 Mises Institutes in as many countries.
Where Austrian economics was once a dwindling school of thought, now it flourishes here and in Europe, Asia, and South America, especially in the next generation. On our 35th anniversary, we remember all this with great gratitude, and plan for far more success in the years ahead.
This article was originally published at The Mises Institute.
By Jacob G. Hornberger
By this time it has become painfully obvious that Donald Trump is going to follow the interventionist road in the Middle East that Republicans and Democrats have been following ever since the Cold War ended in 1989. Like any good conservative, Trump is expanding the size of the military establishment, unleashing the Pentagon to wage its war on ISIS and terrorism, and continuing the bombing, shooting, and assassinations by the military and the CIA in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. At the same time, he’s keeping the entire NSA surveillance machinery fully intact and operational.
In other words, same old, same old. None of this should surprise us, of course. These were all things Trump led us to believe he would do during his presidential race.
But there is one big aspect to all this that we should emphasize and talk about now — the possibility of more terrorist blowback from the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, especially a big terrorist attack that involves dozens or even hundreds of victims, such a massive bomb in a shopping mall or office building or on a crowded bridge.
If that happens, one thing is certain: rational thinking will be in extremely short supply. You can already imagine most everyone panicking and screaming, “Those damned Muslims! They hate us for our freedom and values! They’re coming to get us and take over our government! They’re hell-bent on establishing a caliphate here! Their religion forces them to kill us! They’re trying to establish Sharia law here! They want to force our children to study Islam! They’re all bad, those Muslims!”
The last thing many people are going to want to hear is that the terrorist attack is a direct retaliatory consequence of the death-and-destruction spree in which the U.S. government has been engaged in the Middle East for the past 25 years, beginning with the Persian Gulf War and continuing now through the Trump administration.
I can already imagine the emails FFF is going to receive after we point this out: “You hate America! You’re blaming us! You love the terrorists! You’re a terrorism justifier! America — love it or leave it!”
Why am I so certain that this is what will happen if there is another big retaliatory terrorist strike here at home? Simple. Because that was the type of venom to which we were subjected after the 9/11 attacks, when we immediately began telling people that the attacks were the natural, predictable consequence of the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East during the 10 years before the 9/11 attacks.
Many people didn’t want to hear any such thing. To them, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA are holy and sacrosanct. They would never do anything wrong. They would never do anything bad. If they had to kill people, such as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with 10 years of brutal sanctions on Iraq, then that’s only because it had to be done — that is, national security supposedly required it. That’s why hardly any national-security statist objected when U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, told Sixty Minutes long before the 9/11 attacks that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.”
So, I fully expect the same type of hyper-irrational thinking to occur if another big terrorist domestic attack comes. That’s why it’s important to confront and talk about it now, when people are still thinking somewhat rationally and sanely.
When the U.S. government goes abroad and kills people and destroys homes and businesses — indeed, when it bombs wedding parties and hospitals and kills innocent children — the victims and families of the victims tend to get angry, even if the killings are inadvertent or accidental or as part of “collateral damage” occurring as a result of killing combatants. Some people get so angry that they decide to seek revenge.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. While it might be unhealthy from a psychological standpoint, the thirst for revenge is extremely difficult for some human beings to overcome. Americans should be able to relate. Just consider the thirst for revenge after the 9/11 attacks among many Americans. It caused many of them to support a regime-change war of aggression and decade-long occupation against Iraq, even though no Iraqi had ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Since the 9/11 attackers were Muslims and since most Iraqis were Muslims, it was considered okay to kill Muslims in Iraq. That’s what the quest for revenge does to people.
Since Trump has decided to continue the 25-year U.S. killing spree in the Middle East, it stands to reason that there is going to be more terrorist retaliation, especially here at home. If it happens, it’s not going to be limited to targeting U.S. troops, in large part because the troops have killed countless noncombatants in the Middle East.
In fact, I’m surprised that Americans have not borne more terrorist blowback than what has already occurred in places like Boston, Orlando, and San Bernardino. I’m surprised that American tourists in Europe and elsewhere haven’t been targeted for assassinations. I’m surprised that there haven’t been any big suicide bombs among U.S. troops stationed outside the Middle East, where they are not constantly on guard against such a thing happening, as they would be in a combat zone.
And I’m surprised that there haven’t been more big terrorist retaliatory strikes here in the United States, especially given that it only takes a few Muslim sympathizers to blow up a big bomb in a mall or office building or with a car bomb on a bridge.
My point in bringing all this up now is so that Americans can think about and reflect right now on U.S. foreign policy — specifically, Trump’s plans to continue the 25-year-long Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama killing spree in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Keep in mind: There is another option. Stop it, now. No more U.S. killings, no more U.S. bombings, no more U.S. assassinations. Just leave the Middle East. Yankee, come home, now!
Could that mean that anti-U.S. regimes could take over in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere?
Yep, and so what? There are already plenty of regimes around the world that hate the U.S. government (and indirectly the United States): North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria come to mind. There are others. What difference would it make if four or five more joined the ranks? It wouldn’t make a whit of difference insofar as the United States and the American people are concerned.
In fact, bringing the troops home (from everywhere) would go a long way toward dissipating the anger and hatred that foreign regimes and foreign citizens have for the U.S. government and the United States. No one likes a foreign invader, interloper, intervenor, killer, bomber, and aggressor. As a national-security state, pro-empire regime, the U.S. government has become all of those things.
Now is the time for the American people to rise and say, “Enough is enough!” Now is the time for Americans to demand that Trump and the national-security establishment bring the troops home now. After a major terrorist attack, it will be too late because the impetus to retaliate through the infliction of more death and destruction against Muslims in the Middle East and Afghanistan is likely to be too powerful to stop at that point.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
North Korea continues testing missiles as the United States and South Korea conduct military exercises to practice attacking North Korea. Is North Korea about to launch an attack? Is it capable of being an existential threat to the US? Or is it possible that the threat is only made worse by continued US meddling in the dispute?
By Simon Black
In 1988, a bank called Guardian Savings and Loan made financial history by issuing the first ever “subprime” mortgage bond.
The idea was revolutionary.
The bank essentially took all the mortgages they had loaned to borrowers with bad credit, and pooled everything together into a giant bond that they could then sell to other banks and investors.
The idea caught on, and pretty soon, everyone was doing it.
As Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera describe in their excellent history of the financial crisis (All the Devils are Here), the first subprime bubble hit in the 1990s.
Early subprime lenders like First Alliance Mortgage Company (FAMCO) had spent years making aggressive loans to people with bad credit, and eventually the consequences caught up with them.
FAMCO declared bankruptcy in 2000, and many of its competitors went bust as well.
Wall Street claimed that it had learned its lesson, and the government gave them all a slap on the wrist.
But it didn’t take very long for the madness to start again.
By 2002, banks were already loaning money to high-risk borrowers. And by 2005, all conservative lending standards had been abandoned.
Borrowers with pitiful credit and no job could borrow vast sums of money to buy a house without putting down a single penny.
It was madness.
By 2007, the total value of these subprime loans hit a whopping $1.3 trillion. Remember that number.
And of course, we know what happened the next year: the entire financial system came crashing down.
Duh. It turned out that making $1.3 trillion worth of idiotic loans wasn’t such a good idea.
By 2009, 50% of those subprime mortgages were “underwater”, meaning that borrowers owed more money on the mortgage than the home was worth.
In fact, delinquency rates for ALL mortgages across the country peaked at 11.5% in 2010, which only extended the crisis.
But hey, at least that’s never going to happen again.
Except… I was looking at some data the other day in a slightly different market: student loans.
Over the last decade or so, there’s been an absolute explosion in student loans, growing from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.31 trillion last year.
So, the total value of student loans in America today is LARGER than the total value of subprime loans at the peak of the financial bubble.
And just like the subprime mortgages, many student loans are in default.
According to the Fed’s most recent Household Debt and Credit Report, the student loan default rate is 11.2%, almost the same as the peak mortgage default rate in 2010.
This is particularly interesting because student loans essentially have no collateral.
Lenders make loans to students… but it’s not like the students have to pony up their iPhones as security.
That’s what made the subprime debacle so dangerous.
Millions of homes were underwater, so when borrowers didn’t pay, lenders didn’t have sufficient collateral to cover their loan exposure.
With student loans, there is no collateral. Lenders have no security to recoup their loans.
So when students don’t pay, someone is going to take a hit.
That ‘someone’ will likely be you.
That’s because hundreds of billions of dollars of these student loans are either owned or guaranteed by the United States government.
So as borrowers stop making payments, it’s the taxpayer who will suffer yet another massive loss.
Let’s be honest, though, there’s something seriously screwed up with this system.
Young people are pushed into this system by a society that places an irrationally high value on university degrees.
Kids are told for their entire lives that if they study hard to get into a good school, there will be a great career waiting for them.
For many young people this turned out to be a total lie.
In fact, Federal Reserve data once again show that, for at least 25% of college graduates, salaries are no higher than for people with just a high school diploma.
Racking up so much debt hardly seems worth it.
It seems bizarre to begin with that an 18-year old will know what s/he wants to do in life, to the point that they should take on $50,000 in debt for a piece of paper that might not even make them marketable.
What did any of us really know at age 18? And how many of us could have accurately predicted our life’s path?
And yet there’s an absurd amount of pressure to force young people into this system that heaps debt upon them.
If you’re a young person about to go down this path of debt, I’d suggest two alternatives:
1) Look overseas.
There’s a multitude of top-ranked universities around the world that you can attend for a fraction of what you might pay at home. See here, and here.
2) Seek mentorship.
The master-apprentice relationship worked well for thousands of years. And it’s so simple.
If you want to be successful, learn from successful people.
If you want to be great at something, find someone who’s already great at it and learn from them.
And if you’re not sure, find someone who you respect admire… someone whose activities and values excite you… and make yourself indispensable to that person.
This article was originally published at Sovereign Man.
By Chris Rossini
We live in an age of government fiat money, meaning it's not real and constitutional money, like gold and silver. Since government, via its central bank, can create as much money as it wants, it can finance whatever it wants....wars, welfare, social engineering, you name it. No price tag is too big.
Imagine having the ability to create (out of thin air) as much money as you'd like. Putting all jokes aside, what would become of you? How would that change you?
We're not talking about earning as much money as you'd like. That's totally legitimate. We're talking about -- one moment the money doesn't exist, and the next it's in your hands. How would that warp every aspect of your humanity?
Let's just say, it wouldn't be pretty, as intoxicating as the prospect may sound on the surface.
That's because no man, woman, or group should ever have the power to create money on a whim. Right now, a government bureaucrat can literally type numbers into a keyboard and whisk money into existence.
Gold and silver have been money for thousands of years largely because MAN CANNOT CREATE GOLD AND SILVER. Governments have hated gold and silver with a passion for that very reason.
Power despises restraints, and it schemes night and day to have every restraint removed.
Gold and silver restrain power.
As soon as government has the ability to create unlimited money, it produces a serious crisis for liberty. Individual liberty is a restraint on government. Each individual controls his or her own life and property.
Government doesn't want restraints. Give it the power to create money and it will finance every possible way to remove it.
Isn't that what has been done over the last century?
Individual privacy is just about gone. All communications monitored. All financial transactions monitored (except for cash, which they're working on getting rid of). Your location, your friends, everything about you...
Individual liberty is a restraint on power, so it's systematically being removed.
What can possess a group of people to create such a government? Why were they able to take an idea that belongs strictly in a science-fiction novel, and turn it into an actual reality?
The answer: Unlimited money.
No financial restraints.
With gold as money, government would have to literally get the gold from the population to finance its antics. The population could say "NO."
However, when government has the ability to create money, it doesn't have to ask the population for anything. It just does. The population doesn't have the ability to say "NO."
What kind of people would be drawn to such a destructive power? Those who want to live and let live, or those who have a lust to dominate others with force? Look at the politicians for the answer. It's obvious.
In fact, the fight to get a hold of this power gets more vicious with every election. Politicians are no longer statesmen. They're no longer the butcher, baker or candlestick maker.
We're seeing first hand what type of people want to get to the top of this colossal institution of force.
Now for the light at the end of the tunnel.
The best that one person can do is to understand...then understand some more...and even more...without end.
Then, tell others that care to listen. Most won't, and that's OK. Majorities follow whichever ideas happen to dominate at the time. Whether those ideas are good or bad makes no difference. Majorities follow and are a lagging indicator.
It's going to look dark the entire time...like no one is listening. But people are listening.
So, understand and speak. Those are the two escape hatches.
In the meantime, those with unlimited power will continue their sprint to economic crisis. Life lets you get away with error for awhile, sometimes a long while. Life gives you plenty of opportunities to turn things around.
Our government has spurned every opportunity with tremendous arrogance. It could have stopped the wars, especially after the "Cold War," and it could have returned to a gold standard, especially after the 1970's.
But in every case (and there were many more opportunities to do the right thing) the U.S. government turned up its nose and continued its erroneous ways.
Economic reality checkmated the Soviets. Not a single bullet had to be fired. Not an ounce of blood had to be lost. And no politicians were tasked with "Draining the Soviet Swamp."
No one would have been allowed to "Drain the Soviet Swamp," just as no one is allowed to "Drain the American swamp"....not even Donald Trump.
There's no defeating a gang that is intoxicated with the fantasy of unlimited money. They can finance the destruction of any opponent that dares to enter their domain.
However, in the long run, they can only defeat themselves....even with unlimited money at their disposal.
Economic law wins every time.
When the chips are down, will enough people desire Liberty?
By Ron Paul
This Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on a Republican bill that supposedly repeals Obamacare. However, the bill retains Obamacare’s most destructive features.
That is not to say this legislation is entirely without merit. For example, the bill expands the amount individuals can contribute to a health savings account (HSA). HSAs allow individuals to save money tax-free to pay for routine medical expenses. By restoring individuals’ control over healthcare dollars, HSAs remove the distortions introduced in the healthcare market by government policies encouraging over-reliance on third-party payers.
The legislation also contains other positive tax changes, such a provision allowing individuals to use healthcare tax credits to purchase a "catastrophic-only" insurance policy. Ideally, health insurance should only cover major or catastrophic health events. No one expects their auto insurance to cover routine oil changes, so why should they expect health insurance to cover routine checkups?
Unfortunately the bill’s positive aspects are more than outweighed by its failure to repeal Obamacare's regulations and price controls. Like all price controls, Obamacare distorts the signals that a freely functioning marketplace sends to consumers and producers, thus guaranteeing chaos in the marketplace. The result of this chaos is higher prices, reduced supply, and lowered quality.
Two particularly insidious Obamacare regulations are guaranteed issue and community ratings. As the name suggests, guaranteed issue forces health insurance companies to issue a health insurance policy to anyone who applies for coverage. Community ratings forces health insurance companies to charge an obese couch potato and a physically-fit jogger similar premiums. This forces the jogger to subsidize the couch potato’s unhealthy lifestyle.
Obamacare’s individual mandate was put in place to ensure that guaranteed issue and community ratings would not drive health insurance companies out of business. Rather than repealing guaranteed issue and community ratings, the House Republicans’ plan forces those who go longer than two months without health insurance to pay a penalty to health insurance companies when they purchase new policies.
It is hard to feel sympathy for the insurance companies since they supported Obamacare. These companies were eager to accept government regulations in exchange for a mandate that individuals buy their product. But we should feel sympathy for Americans who are struggling to afford, or even obtain, healthcare because of Obamacare and who will obtain little or no relief from Obamacare 2.0.
The underlying problem with the Republican proposal is philosophical. The plan put forth by the alleged pro-free-market Republicans implicitly accepts the premise that healthcare is a right that must be provided by government. But rights are inalienable aspects of our humanity, not gifts from government.
If government can give us rights, then it can also limit or even take away those rights. Giving government power to enforce a fictitious right to healthcare justifies government theft and coercion. Thievery and violence do not suddenly become moral when carried out by governments.
Treating healthcare as a right leads to government intervention, which, as we have seen, inevitably leads to higher prices and lower quality. This is why, with the exception of those specialties, like plastic surgery, that are still treated as goods, not rights, healthcare is one of the few areas where innovation leads to increased costs.
America’s healthcare system will only be fixed when a critical mass of people rejects the philosophical and economic fallacies justifying government-run healthcare. Those of us who know the truth must continue to work to spread the ideas of, and grow the movement for, liberty.