“The Death of Money”: Q&A With James Rickards

“Everything that was ‘too big to fail’ in 2008 is bigger and
more dangerous today,” says New York
Times 
bestselling author James Rickards. “We’re
waiting for the catalyst that will cause this catastrophe to come
tumbling down.”

“‘The Death of Money’: Q&A With James Rickards” is the
latest video from Reason TV. Watch above or click on the link below
for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and
more Reason TV clips.

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U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Mostly Hit Homes and Schools

Next month will mark 10 years
of the United States’ ongoing bomb-dropping operation on its ally
Pakistan. Just in time for this sordid anniversary, The Bureau of
Investigative Journalism last week released a report that indicates
the majority of these strikes aimed at terrorists have been
executed on schools and homes.

The Bureau
explains
:

  • Over three-fifths (61%) of all drone strikes in Pakistan
    targeted domestic buildings, with at least 132 houses
    destroyed, in more than 380 strikes.
  • At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or
    more people killed in attacks on such buildings. In the past 18
    months, reports of civilian casualties in attacks on any targets
    have almost completely vanished, but historically almost one
    civilian was killed, on average, in attacks on houses.
  • The CIA has consistently attacked houses throughout the 10-year
    campaign in Pakistan.
  • The time of an attack affects how many people—and how many
    civilians—are likely to die. Houses are twice as likely to be
    attacked at night compared with in the afternoon. Strikes
    that took place in the evening, when families [are] likely to be at
    home and gathered together, were particularly deadly.

Still, an unnamed government official argued that

the U.S. government only targets terrorists who pose a
continuing and imminent threat to the American people. Period. Any
suggestion otherwise is flat wrong. Furthermore, before any strike
is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be
killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.

This has long been the dubious stance of the Obama
administration, which, according to available data, is still
responsible for over 200 civilian casualties. Organizations like
the
United Nations
 and journalists like Glenn
Greenwald
suggest that such estimates are actually
artificially low
, because the government
doesn’t actually know
who it’s killing and in 2012 it broadened
the definition of “militant” to include virtually any male who
finds himself in the path of a Hellfire missile.

The Bureau paints a picture even more grim, explaining that
deaths of women and children in schools and homes are probably far
worse than acknowledged, because their “relative seclusion within
private space makes them particularly vulnerable to becoming an
unknown casualty when a strike occurs.” 

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The Government Thinks Ranking Colleges Is As Easy As ‘Rating a Blender’

CollegeAn Education Department official who famously
declared that ranking colleges is just like “rating a blender” does
not deserve an “A” for effort, according to perturbed university
administrators.

The comment, made last November by DOE Under Secretary Jamienne
Studley, alarmed many university presidents who claimed that
federal efforts to establish an objective college ranking database
would be prone to error.

Months later, numerous administrators are still concerned that
an onslaught of new regulations based upon a misguided government
ranking system would cause more harm than good,
according to The New York Times
:

In interviews, several college presidents expressed deep
reservations about the idea.

“As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem
in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination,”
said Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in
Massachusetts. Dr. Falk said the danger of a rating system is that
information about the colleges is likely to be “oversimplified to
the point that it actually misleads.”

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount
Saint Vincent in the Bronx, said a rating system for colleges is a
bad idea that “cannot be done well.” He added, pointedly, “I find
this initiative uncharacteristically clueless.”

President Obama’s “uncharacteristically clueless” idea is to
compile a database of colleges and universities that ranks them
according to factors such as graduation rates, employment levels of
recent grads, average debt, etc. Students could use the database as
a reference when deciding where to attend school, and lawmakers
would consult it when determining how much public money to dump on
the lawn of their local campus.

In a statement that likely set zero college administrators at
ease, a White House advisor clarified that this policy would only
hurt the bad universities:

“He is not interested in driving anybody out of business, unless
they are poorly serving the American people,” said Cecilia Muñoz,
the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “In which
case, I think he’s probably pretty comfortable with that.”

White House officials claim to be increasingly concerned about
rising student debt levels, as is the general public. Certainly,
college administrators—especially those who work at
taxpayer-subsidized universities that spend millions of dollars
on fancy
stadiums
 and luxury
hotels
—should expect a reckoning.

But it’s hard to believe the federal government could cobble
together a central database with valid insights about which
colleges deserve to be driven out of business. Constructing such a
system is probably a little harder than rating a blender.

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Is the War in Afghanistan Coming to an End?

just the one bannerPresident Obama visited Afghanistan over the
Memorial Day weekend,
pledging
that “our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an
end.” America’s war in Afghanistan began with Operation Enduring
Freedom on October 7, 2001, and at more than 13 and a half years is
America’s longest war.

The authority to wage the war was drawn from the Authorization
of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed after the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. About a year later, the Bush
Administration sought, and received, a second AUMF to wage a war in
Iraq. Since then, however, American counterterrorism operations
have been dovetailed into the 2001 AUMF not just in Afghanistan and
next-door Pakistan but around the world. As Gene Healy
notes here at Reason.com today
, the Obama Administration does
not seem all that interested in repealing, or even “refining,” the
AUMF like President Obama promised to do last year. It shouldn’t
come as a surprise.

Although the last of U.S. combat troops were pulled out of Iraq
in December 2011, a bill to repeal the Iraq AUMF—which enjoys the

nominal support
of the Obama Administration—was only introduced
in the Senate this January, and has not yet been considered
by committee
. And just as President Obama tried
to postpone
 the end of the Iraq war by insisting on a
residual force of 10,000 troops, he is hoping to keep a U.S.
military presence in Afghanistan past the end of the year, despite
his declaration that the war in Afghanistan is ending. 

“America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan will endure,”
Obama said
in a speech at Bagram Air Force Base
. “With our strategic
partnership, we’ll continue to stand with Afghans as they
strengthen their institutions, as they build their economy, as they
improve their lives.”

The president also pointed to the “bilateral security
agreement,” an agreement worked out in principle earlier this year
that the outgoing Afghan president,
Hamid Karzai
, has nevertheless left up to his successor to
decide to sign.
Both of the candidates
vying in next month’s run-off say they
support the agreement which, according to President Obama, would
allow the U.S. to “plan for a limited military presence in
Afghanistan beyond 2014.”

The U.S. war in Vietnam, America’s next longest conflict, didn’t
end until Congress passed with a veto-proof majority a law
prohibiting military operations
in 1973. Until then, President
Nixon had insisted the war was ending under the Nixon Doctrine and
“Vietnamization,” wherein the U.S. would hand security
responsibilities in South Vietnam to the government there, similar
to what President Obama envisions for
Afghanistan after 2014
.

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Gene Healy Says Obama Is Avoiding the Debate on Terror He Promised To Have

A year
ago Friday, President Obama took a break from waging
perpetual war to warn Americans that “perpetual war …
will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling
ways.” The post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military
Force (AUFM) “is now nearly 12 years old,” Obama proclaimed,
and “this war, like all wars, must end. … That’s what our
democracy demands.” He, for one, welcomed this debate: “I look
forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to
refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” Actually,
writes Gene Healy, the Obama administration hopes to keep
“welcoming the debate” until it goes away. Wednesday’s Senate
Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the AUMF made that
clear — if just about nothing else.

View this article.

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A Serious Anti-Poverty Agenda Has to Include Criminal Justice Reform

For the last year or so, Rep. Paul Ryan has been on a
listening
tour
” in the country’s low-income neighborhoods. Ryan’s legion
of liberal critics has accused
the Wisconsin Republican of disingenuousness, claiming that there’s
no way he can square his stated interest in improving the lives of
the poor with his commitment to cutting government spending. But
there is one rather obvious set of reforms that would let him do
both, reforms that liberals in theory should support. In an

interview
with The Daily Beast last week, Ryan brought
it up:

Hello, inner-city Seattle. I'm listening.I asked the representative from
Janesville, Wisconsin, if he could reflect on a previously held
ideological view that had changed over the course of his learning
tour.

Without hesitation, Ryan delved into the need to reform federal
sentencing guidelines….Reflecting on past congressional efforts
to limit discretion on the part of federal judges in imposing
strict sentences—a reflection that will be sure to raise eyebrows
in the House Republican Cloakroom—Ryan said: “I think we had a
trend in America for a long time on mandatory minimums where we
took away discretion from judges. I think there’s an appreciation
that that approach has some collateral damage—that that approach is
missing in many ways…I think there is a new appreciation that we
need to give judges more discretion in these areas.”

Specifically, Ryan hailed the bipartisan work of Sens. Mike Lee
(R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to
dramatically overhaul
the federal sentencing guideline
structure now in place. Dubbed the “Smarter Sentencing Act,” the
legislation, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this year,
would cut mandatory minimum sentences in half for certain drug
offenses. It also would reduce crack cocaine penalties retroactive
to 2010 and expand the discretion of federal judges to sentence
defendants in certain cases to less time in jail than mandatory
minimum guidelines permit.

Do-it-yourself criminal justice reform.That only scratches the surface
of the changes that are necessary, but it’s a step in the right
direction, and it’s good to see it get an endorsement from Ryan
(whose record on civil liberties
hasn’t been very good
 in the past). If,
as he says
, Ryan’s alternative to the traditional welfare state
is to strengthen civil society, then he should be trying to root
out the institutions that tear civil society apart. And the most
corrosive of those are surely the prison-first crime policies that
have given the U.S. the world’s highest incarceration rates,
ripping young people out of their families and communities and
exiling them to an archipelago of cages. (See also: policies that

confuse school discipline with crime control
, policies that

confuse cops with late-night social workers
, etc.) 

Speaking of civil society and the law: Ryan’s tour seems mostly
to have taken him to civil society’s more presentable
faces—violence-free
zones
church-based drug rehab
programs
, and so on. All well and good, but it’s important to
realize that a great deal of the community-based problem-solving
and local mutual aid that’s out there isn’t likely to attract a
high-profile visitor, because it operates in a legal grey zone—or,
in some cases, actively violates the law. Whether it’s
self-organized day care operations that violate the local licensing
or zoning rules, organizations that ignore ordinances against
feeding the homeless, or urban homesteaders with less-than-certain
title to the abandoned buildings they’re transforming into homes or
the abandoned lots they’re transforming into gardens, these efforts
could stand a little legal relief. The laws that need to be cleared
away for such projects to flourish aren’t always imposed on the
federal level, so a congressman’s ability to help them may be
limited. But if you want your poverty-fighting agenda to be focused
on the real institutions of civil society, as opposed to the most
camera-ready, these have to be part of the picture.

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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Police Who Used Deadly Force to End High-Speed Car Chase

The U.S. Supreme ruled today in favor of
several West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers who used deadly
force to end a high-speed car chase. The Court’s ruling in
Plumhoff v. Rickard overturns a previous decision by the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which had denied
qualified immunity to the officers involved in the incident.

“Under the circumstances present in this case,” Justice Samuel
Alito wrote for the Supreme Court, “we hold that the Fourth
Amendment did not prohibit petitioners from using the deadly force
that they employed to terminate the dangerous car chase.”

At issue was a 2004 pursuit that began with a routine traffic
stop and ended with the West Memphis police firing 15 rounds into
the fleeing vehicle, killing both the driver and his passenger,
neither of whom were armed. As
expected
, the Court upheld the constitutionality of those
actions by the police. “If police officers are justified in firing
at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety,” the
Court held, “the officers need not stop shooting until the threat
has ended.”

The opinion in Plumhoff v. Rickard is available

here
. No dissents were filed.

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Elliott Rodger, the UCSB Shooting, and 5 Rules for Coping with Tragedy

As law enforcement, the media, and the larger Santa Barabara
community deal with the aftermath of last
Friday’s shooting rampage
by Elliot Rodger, it’s also worth
keeping in mind the “5 Rules for Coping with Tragedy” outlined
above in a Reason TV video originally released in January, 2011 in
the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and what
Reason ultimately came to call “The Loughner Panic
(after the response to the gunman).

Among the points:

1. Early reports may be wrong.

2. Don’t politicize a tragedy.

3. Don’t blame heated rhetoric.

4. Put the tragedy in context.

5. Legislate carefully.


More on those rules here
.

As
noted over the weekend, Rodger left a long playlist of
chilling, disturbing videos
. He also published a long,
rambling, and alternately racist, misogynistic, and thoroughly
misanthropic text he titled “My
Twisted World
,” in which he explains his anger at a world that
did not conform to his demands:

Humanity… All of my suffering on this world has been at
the hands of humanity, particularly women. It has made me
realize just how brutal and twisted humanity is as a species. All I
ever wanted was to fit in and live a happy life amongst
humanity, but I was cast out and rejected, forced to endure an
existence of loneliness and insignificance, all because the
females of the human species were incapable of seeing the
value in me.   

This is the story of how I, Elliot Rodger, came to be.
This is the story of my entire life. It is a dark story of
sadness, anger, and hatred. It is a story of a war against cruel
injustice. In this magnificent story, I will disclose every
single detail about my life, every single significant experience
that I have pulled from my superior memory, as well as how
those experiences have shaped my views of the world.

There’s no question that he was seriously deranged, though it’s
far from clear what the larger social import of his worldview
really is. I’ve already seen long essays about how Rodger
exemplifies all Millennials, or all men, or all Asperger cases—the
list will only keep growing. But taking mass shooters as
representative of the society that supposedly produces them
(through violent video games, too much parenting, too little
parenting, too much sexy on TV, prudish attitudes towards sex,
etc.) is always a dicey proposition, especially in the first flood
of information.

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A.M. Links: Obama Visits Afghanistan, Iranian Court Summons Mark Zuckerberg, Eurosceptics Top European Elections

  • photo op, don't out anyonePresident Obama made a surprise visit to
    Afghanistan
    , promising the U.S. war would “finally” end by the
    close of the year. During the trip officials unwittingly revealed
    the identity of the
    CIA station chief
    in the country.
  • The father of one victim of a weekend rampage at the
    University of California at Santa Barbara
    blamed the lack of
    tighter gun laws. Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed three people before
    shooting three others and then himself.
  • An Iranian court has summoned
    Mark Zuckerberg
    to court to answer complaints about privacy
    violations caused by apps owned by Facebook.
  • At least 40 people were killed in fighting between separatists
    and pro-government forces at the airport in Donetsk,
    Ukraine
    .
  • At a pro-military rally in
    Abuja, Nigeria
    , an air marshal claimed the government knew the
    whereabouts of nearly 300 girls kidnapped last month but couldn’t
    send the army there.
  • Elections in
    Europe
    this weekend saw various Euroskeptic and populist
    parties across the continent perform well.

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