Syria could lead to a violent military escalation between the USA and Russia

By now many of you must have heard the news: a Russian Lieutenant-General, Valery Asapov, and two Colonels have been killed in what appears to be a very precisely targeted mortar attack.  Just as in the case of the Russian military police unit recently attacked near Deir ez-Zor, the Russians are accusing the Americans of being behind this attack.  To make things even worse, the Russians are now also officially accusing the Americans of actively collaborating with ISIS:
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TiVo and the NSA want to destroy the 4th Amendment and your privacy. The subversives of today are coding on Pocket C.H.I.P.s, but you probably can’t get one


Today I am not going to talk about current events or political economy.  Today I am going to talk about digital privacy.  The principle of the 4th Amendment is not merely legal: it is ethical. It is a statement of natural law, and the USA’s Founding Fathers believed it to be instituted by God to govern God’s creation.

The Internet has evolved to a business model of mass surveillance, and mass surveillance is contrary to the principle articulated by the 4th Amendment. Even if you’re not from the USA, that doesn’t change the principle.

“Computer hacking” may still sound pretty “1337” to folks who don’t aspire to professional knowledge of computers. Hacking used to be a labor of love done by guys like Steve Wozniak, who broke the law frequently and was richly rewarded because Silicon Valley was free from serious law enforcement before the famous “Hacker Crackdown” of 1992.

Nowadays, “hacker” is a blue-collar job. Check out this glorious bit of corporate propaganda:

I have not signed up for those online training course. Maybe they are high-quality products put out by an ethical training company. But the point is that hacking is a mainstream job skill now. You can get an “ethical hacker certification” just like you can get an “apprentice electrician certification.”

I am not eager to sign up for those courses. I don’t understand privacy technology. I don’t understand how many people would get their hooks into my personal data if I were to try to get educated online. I suspect, however, that a fair number of newbies trying to get educated are just going to get onto NSA watchlists without acquiring any useful skills.

By now, everyone has heard that the NSA has Carnivore and XKeyScore and other projects intended to eavesdrop on everyone.

You may have heard that the NSA also bribes hardware manufacturers to put backdoors into commercially available hardware.

Julian Assange has declared the dawn of the CYPHERPUNK age. In this day and age, when Catalonia is trying to use Internet privacy technologies to get a vote out, who remembers cyberpunk?  Apparently PocketC.H.I.P. remembers.  They are selling their glorious equipment to hobbyists and hackers in a small number of countries, because they are a tiny organization that cannot pay for a big shipping company to ship these devices all over the world.  These devices are not very powerful, but they ARE user friendly – if you can manage to get one shipped to your country, and that is a big deal.

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Is a deplorable not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

“A city where the artist would not fear the censor,
where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality,
where the great would not be constrained by the small.

And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well…”

Video credit: Bioshock

Comment: The various fantasy stories of “Wild West” combat – notably the Bioshock and Fallout videogames – appeal to the decadent man of modern civilization. He is a man, so he wants to fight; he wants to earn recognition by killing foes, or else to go to an early grave. He does not WANT to be the degenerate that he is. And yet he IS a degenerate, so he plays video games instead of struggling against desperate odds for a chance at a better world. In many cases, of course, he might as well give up – if you are 75 years old and childless, you will not get to live in a better world, even if the Banksters all collapse tomorrow. If you are 30 years old and you have a child, you don’t want to take risks – you want to maximize the probability that your child will grow up in a better world, even if you don’t live to see it. And if you are 15, your life probably sucks, and you probably have no realistic hope for a better world – and thus you probably play vidya instead of self-radicalizing your politics.

There are a few havens of freedom, or at least license. If you can survive Somalia, you can live there and enjoy its loose culture. If you like fleshpots, there are places like Macau and Thailand who are happy to take your money (although they will kick you out once your wallet gets empty). But there are few countries that actually have decent Internet connections and decent regard for Western ideas of liberty. Iceland comes to mind. But it’s not easy to visit Iceland, much less immigrate.

The current situation could change if any nouveau-riche billionaire actually succeeds in founding a libertarian country. If the world actually HAD a Galt’s Gulch, then a lot of talented middle-class strivers with a bit of cash tucked under their pillows would be working and planning and striving to secure a spot in Galt’s Gulch – at least a post-office box from which they could run their online businesses…

So because the world has sadly failed to end on schedule, I bring you some deplorable rumblings and some current events:
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Sadly, many people who WANT the dollar-denomated economy to collapse today will be disappointed

So let’s look at currency flows, reserves and debt.
The demise of the U.S. dollar has been a staple of the financial media for decades. The latest buzzword making the rounds is de-dollarization, which describes the move away from USD in global payments.
De-dollarization is often equated with the demise of the dollar, but this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the currency markets.
Look, I get it: the U.S. dollar arouses emotions because it’s widely seen as one of the more potent tools of U.S. hegemony. Lots of people are hoping for the demise of the dollar, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the actual flow of currencies or the role of currencies in the global economy and foreign exchange (FX) markets.
So there is a large built-in audience for any claim that the dollar is on its deathbed.
I understand the emotional appeal of this, but investors and traders can’t afford to make decisions on the emotional appeal of superficial claims–not just in the FX markets, but in any markets.
So let’s ground the discussion of the demise of the USD in some basic fundamentals. Now would be a good time to refill your beverage/drip-bag because we’re going to cover some dynamics that require both emotional detachment and focus.
First, forget what currency we’re talking about. If the USD raises your hackles, then substitute quatloos for USD.
There are three basic uses for currency:
1. International payments. This can be thought of as flow: if I buy a load of bat guano and the seller demands payment in quatloos, I convert my USD to quatloos–a process that is essentially real-time–render payment, and I’m done with the FX part of the transaction.

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Doomsayers express annoyance that impending doom is taking its sweet time

The political economy of impending doom, as told in multiple vignettes:

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Posted in political economy