Thursday, June 2, 2011

Post No. 166: What the Ku Klux Klan Has to Say about Our Dependence on Foreign Oil


© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this week, a Saudi prince called for lower oil prices. Some of you might be surprised at what his statement revealed about how the Middle East views us, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

There are two stories upon which we often reflect in thinking about “group dynamics,” one involving relatively large groups and the other about small groups.

The first involves black folks. During the early 1970s, the top R&B/urban music station in Atlanta had a very popular black DJ, who used a large number of recorded exchanges between fictional characters to send messages to his listeners.

The one which struck us most forcefully was the purported conversation between 2 Ku Klux Klan members saying that to accomplish their goals, they need not waste their time, energy and bullets, since they could simply “place their guns on the shelves; because those _____ are going to kill themselves.” The DJ was trying to get his fans to appreciate the damage to the black community brought on by, what sociologists and urban specialists refer to as, “black on black crime.”

The second story reveals how in some instances, members of a group may have good intentions and the same ultimate goal, but disagree about how to go about achieving that goal. A well-educated, sharp, upper middle class couple we know had a child who suffered from a congenital condition which caused the child to self-inflict injury.

When the child was young, the parents disagreed about the course of treatment to address the condition. The disagreements continued over the years as the child grew older, and the child’s self-destructive behavior became more intense.

Once the child approached puberty, and grew stronger physically, the parents could no longer handle the child themselves, and were forced to have the child restrained initially, and ultimately confined to an institution. Shortly thereafter, the parents divorced (significantly because of the disagreements regarding the treatment), and the child no longer had the benefit, if any there were, of a parental support team to battle his unfortunate condition.

To this day, the parents argue about the “correct” approach to treatment.

Getting back to the Saudi prince, whose grandfather was the founding king of modern day Saudi Arabia, Al-Waleed bin Talal said Sunday that he prefers that oil prices decline so that western industrialized nations do not accelerate efforts to become energy independent. According to an article on CNN.com:

"’We don't want the West to go and find alternatives, because, clearly, the higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives,’ said Talal, who is listed by Forbes as the 26th richest man in the world.”

Actually, it seems like a smart approach on the part of OPEC, if you're in the catbird seat.

We don’t know about you, but that a foreign nation or some other entity has us by the balls, and does not mince words while clearly expressing it to the world, should be disturbing to us all. What’s more interesting is the paucity of outrage on our part that someone would characterize our internal “group dynamics” in such a manner.

The reason that we really can’t complain is because it is the "truth," (which unfortunately, despite the claims of many Baby Boomers, shall not "set us free" from this addiction).

We have no one to blame but our collective selves.

And yet like the couple with the child, we argue and debate the manner in which we should “wean” ourselves off of foreign oil. And while debate is always good, at some point there has to be resolution, followed by action.

Imagine a team of doctors treating a heroin addicted patient, debating the treatment approach and trying their various, conflicting approaches as the rehab facility administration changes from time to time, while the patient continues to use heroin for 40 years.

Is the current state of affairs a function of our governance model? Payments by Big Oil to our politicians? The American consumer’s love affair with driving and the individual freedom which goes along with driving one’s own vehicle? Is there a class issue associated with urban mass transit?

We don’t know. We doubt that anyone really knows. But we do know that we can’t keep delaying finding solutions to problems while engaged in doctrinal debates for very much longer.

It will be the death of us, by more forces than just oil.

Perhaps the Common Sense and Compassion Party formed this year by one of regular followers, the Independent Cuss, has the “right idea.” According to their Party Platform:

“We believe that neither should one kill the goose which lays the golden eggs out of spite (the ideological left), nor should one kill his neighbor and feed him to the goose as an artificial growth hormone for increased egg production (the ideological right).

Where does it all end?

42 comments:

  1. ‘Spector,

    I am a bit tired at this hour, but I will nonetheless attempt a response . . . even though my inhibitions are a bit weakened by fatigue.

    “Actually, it seems like a smart approach on the part of OPEC, if you're in the catbird seat.

    We don’t know about you, but that a foreign nation or some other entity has us by the balls, and does not mince words while clearly expressing it to the world, should be disturbing to us all. What’s more interesting is the paucity of outrage on our part that someone would characterize our internal “group dynamics” in such a manner.”

    OPEC has not minced words since its inception, and has had us by the balls for just as long. This is because we don’t have the balls to refuse to trade with an international cartel which openly flouts our antitrust and antimonopoly laws and has done so for four decades; by hesitating, too many of the “right people” in America get rich while the rest of us founder.

    Yes, I know that we can enforce our own laws only within our own borders, but we should refuse to trade with (much less be a member of) any cartel which so brazenly thumbs its nose at the U.S. and artificially manipulates the Law of Supply and Demand. All of the oil we could possibly consume for decades to come has been found beneath the north-central and north-west states; we’ve known about it for at least eight years. I say drill it, refine it here, sell it here – problem solved. The Saudis will no longer control the supply and the Chinese will no longer control the demand, hence the American consumer can actually affect the price -- what a concept.

    But the burden of eco-fascism (and its activist lawyers) is simply too convenient an excuse for the American oil barons to scam us out of billions by sourcing overpriced foreign oil which is then sold here for a hefty profit. Ideological right-wing greed-heads enabled by ideological left-wing nut-jobs: such perfect symmetry! A uniquely American tale if ever there was one.

    By the way: thanks for so appropriately appropriating my quote . . .

    The Independent Cuss

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  2. Wow Independent Cuss, that was a pretty in-depth, thorough, but succinct analysis of the relationship between the US and the Middle Eastern oil countries for a tired man. Our cadre of staff Fellows here at the Institute do not manage to generate such content even when we have optimal sleep, optimal energy, and optimal nutrition. We may have to outsource some work to you!

    Back to oil somewhat specifically, but the US more generally, there are two things about Americans (which may also exist in citizens of other nations also) regarding the conditions extant in our country which continually amaze us:

    1) How so many Americans think that certain static conditions came about as a result of activity spanning a year or two or occurred during the tenure of a single Administration; and

    2) How certain factions in our society (especially political parties) manipulate and use current conditions to support their positions about the opposing party.

    This oil ridiculousness has been going on for at least 35 years, and perhaps as long as 70 years. Both parties have been complicit. Both parties have contributed to current abysmal state.

    And yet year, after year, the elected political leaders attack the policies of each other, laughing all the way to the bank.

    Either the National Geographic Channel, CNBC, or the History Channel once aired a program on the House of Saud, which we found fascinating. Keep an eye out for it. They also discussed why oil production shifted away from our shores and to the Middle East.

    As many often say, simply follow the money trail, and you figure out the underlying motivations. In this instance, it lead to "cheap oil," somewhat due to the fact that drilling through sand is less costly than drilling through ice, tundra, rock, and the ocean.

    As for the "appropriation" of your quote, you're welcome. Our mantra, as you are aware, is "There are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27." TM

    When one examines the minimal 27 contributing factors to any situation, one will just begin to appreciate the blame/ responsibility which can be spread around, on both sides and on top of the ideological fence. What clear-headed, thinking people ought to be able to do with that is create more effective solutions, as long as the leaders of the more powerful factions truly have the public's interests at heart, and are not greedy.

    Thanks as always.

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  3. "What clear-headed, thinking people ought to be able to do with that is create more effective solutions, as long as the leaders of the more powerful factions truly have the public's interests at heart, and are not greedy."

    Which describes a set of circumstrances which unfortunately occur with less frequency than the appearance of Halley’s Comet . . .

    The Independent Cuss

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  4. For classic movie enthusiasts, as we type this, Turner Classic Movies is airing the original, 1933 version of "King Kong." Check out how the natives, who were at first adverse to the foreign visitors, join forces with them to fight King Kong.

    But that only occurs in fiction and Hollywood.

    On a serious note, the special effects are truly special, especially for their time.

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  5. "But that only occurs in fiction and Hollywood."

    Nope, happens all the time. Biggest and clearest example is the Allies in WWII.

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  6. I like the Independent Cuss. I also think he's a hopeless dreamer but that doesn't take away from those dreams... or his common sense.

    To be more specific about the issue of dependence on foreign oil, I have way too much to say for a mere comment or two. I will, however, point out that our President demands we seek alternatives to oil because of that and then encourages Brazil to increase their production so that we can become "their biggest customer." All well and good as long as Brazil's interests and ours remain compatible. But, once, so were the Saudi's interests and our compatible.

    My "common sense" tells me we should expand our own oil production while exploring alternatives. We have no real, rational, other choice.

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  7. Amen to Douglas's comment!

    And I know that I am indeed a dreamer, Douglas. Remind me sometime to describe in detail my ambition to declare American jobs to be a protected national resource, off limits to corporate exportation ("outsourcing") as well as undermining from within by enviros and other well-meaning-but-misguided assassins.

    The Independent Cuss

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  8. You should consider running for President Douglas.

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  9. Independent Cuss wrote:

    "...well-meaning-but-misguided...."

    What should society do about that; and who gets to decide which faction is misguided?

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  10. You have to be a Type A personality to do (or even want) that job. I like to
    describe myself as a Type Z... just about as far from Type A as one can be.

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  11. 'Spector,

    Strictly my opinion, of course. However, the issue is academic: if it puts American jobs at risk, then it should be illegal. It doesn’t really matter if the treason of job endangerment is committed by a tree-hugger out of compassion for the three-toed kangaroo rat, or free-traded away by Daddy Warbucks to satisfy his insatiable thirst for higher profits; jobs gone are jobs gone.

    Look: the feds go gaga and impose heavy fines and the possibility of prison time if you harm a red wolf or a copperhead snake because they MIGHT be endangered. So what about American’s jobs? Are they not PROVABLY endangered? Yes, I did indeed wander off topic . . . but you did ask.

    Oh, and Douglas: I too describe myself as a “Type Z”. But I am sufficiently disgusted with the way in which my nation is being sacrificed upon the heretical twin altars of profits and misguided (there’s that word again!) idealism to kick some serious partisan butt. If it weren’t time for my nap, I would probably start today . . .

    The Independent Cuss

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  12. Out of curiosity, are the citizens of the US who bought products made, or food grown, outside of the US, also complicit and therefore should bear some responsibility?

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  13. ‘Spector,

    I suppose so . . . in the same way in which anyone with no choice abets his master(s). But I assure you that most of us did not go willingly into servitude to Chinaco et al.

    Have you tried to deliberately buy goods which are not imported recently? Shoes? Apparel? Furniture? And even if an article IS made in this country, how can one be certain that it was not produced by illegal alien labor which displaced American jobs?

    Do you see the complexity of the situation? Immigration control must also be a component of protecting this vital key to our nation’s strength and sovereignty.

    Sorry to hijack your topic, but again: you asked.

    TIC

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  14. We will address the issue of what constitutes "premium" later.

    However, at this moment, we would like to address the issue of "choice." The American Dream is a dual-edged sword of sorts. We essentially say to people that they can have it all.

    But that is unrealistic.

    We have a choice as to where we live.

    We have a choice as to whether we get married, and generally, who we marry.

    We have a choice as to whether to have children, and how many.

    We have a choice as to the type of education we pursue.

    And on, and on, and on....

    We can't pick Choices 1, 5, 9, A, V, GG, and JJJ, and expect them to necessarily satisfy us or achieve our individual goals.

    In a nation of 300 million people, let's assume that 1/3 are minors, and the remaining 200 million are adults. In a competitive environment where there are 200 million participants, different people are going to make different choices, leading to different results.

    Is it a little difficult for anyone to blame "government," "society," or "corporations" for where we find ourselves in life? Unless, of course, one is enslaved?

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  15. No. The reason why not is simple: Individuals have a right (maybe a duty) to purchase products with a mind toward value. Price tempered by quality. These people are customers. It is up to the business to provide the product at a cost that is competitive in the marketplace, Demanding people pay more for less quality or quantity out of some sense of patriotism is offensive to me.

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  16. Likewise, the companies had choices also. Provide a cheaper product of reasonably equal quality and compete successfully in the marketplace or try to market a higher priced product on the basis that it is patriotic to buy it. This is the essence of a free market. I do not fault the consumer nor do I fault the producer.

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  17. Independent Cuss, thanks as always for your insightful comments.

    You wrote:
    "First, external influences beyond our control are always altering the outcome regardless of how one tries to micro-manage the result by making the 'right' choices."

    1.There are far more choices available to the typical human during the course of a day than there are external forces beyond human control. Additionally, most humans have the ability to choose the response that they make to an influence.

    Independent Cuss wrote:

    "Second, some people are simply “wired” inadequately for survival in a certain setting -- which renders some choices to be academic. In my case, that unsustainable setting is an urban/suburban environment."

    2. A human has the ability to move from one setting to another and then choose which setting increases his or her probability of survival, and which best suits that individual depending on that individual's goals.

    Independent Cuss wrote:

    "Third, most of the changes in this discussion which we are supposed to mitigate by our “choices” are due to acts of treason (bartering away our jobs and our means of production) which could in no way be anticipated in certain circumstances. Moreover, the manifest lack of equity shown toward our rural and working-class citizens is simply unconscionable."

    3. We had to look up the word "treason." According to our dictionary: "Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by purposely aiding its enemies.

    A corporate entity arguably has no allegiance to anyone, anything, or any country. It owes its allegiance to its shareholders. Its responsibility is to make as much profit as it possibly can to maximize the yields on shareholder investment. If American society that that should have been outlawed, it would have taken steps to outlaw certain corporate activities as was done in the case of the enactment of the anti-trust laws.

    Individuals can always form their own corporations to compete against those fleeing our land.

    Individuals can move to the competitive lands.

    There's no end to the choices which humans can make, and the actions in which they can engage, to improve their lot.

    All that being said, if one chooses to accept their lot and their status, and their location, then that is a choice also. All of our decisions in life involve weighing competing considerations and making choices.

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  18. In thinking about some of the comments made in connection with this topic, several principles which we explore during our motivational sessions come to mind:

    a) If one thinks of one's self as a victim, one will be a victim;

    b) Anger is a concomitant emotion when one considers one's self a victim; and

    c) Every person bears some degree of responsibility for the condition in which they find themselves, with a few genetically driven exceptions. The less and less one feels that they have responsibility for their status and condition, the less power one perceives one has to address it, and make a change.

    Are Americans getting their assess kicked, and taking it lying down?

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  19. Wow! Not only do I agree with a, b, and c but I would say your final sentence is the issue of the day. Yes, we are getting our collective ass kicked and, yes, we are taking it lying down (or perhaps "bent over"). Those kicking our collective ass are being aided and abetted by our elected officials and bureaucrats.

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  20. Hmm. You threw us a doozy here Douglas.

    You wrote: "I do not fault the consumer nor do I fault the producer."

    Hmm, paraphrasing, neither party was at fault. We have to look at the definition of fault.

    Our dictionary says: "A mistake; an error; responsibility for a mistake or offense; culpability."

    We wanted to see if responsibility and fault could be used synonymously.

    Let us not mis-characterize your statement.

    Are you saying that neither the corporations nor the consumers bear any responsibility for where we find ourselves in reference to (a) our dependence on foreign oil first, and (b) the current state of our economy here in the United States?

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  21. Douglas, as you are aware we're systems guys. We always ask whether there are efficient, effective, structural changes which can be made in our pursuit of improvement.

    How would you "tweak" our governance model to address your concerns about our elected officials and bureaucrats?

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  22. I am saying there is no "mistake", no "error" involved. No error or mistake means no fault can be assigned. Things are pretty much working as "designed".

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  23. @Inspector

    How would you "tweak" our governance model to address your concerns about our elected officials and bureaucrats?

    Under our current (and, I hope, future) form of governance, it is up to the voters to do this "tweaking". That is, they need to vote intelligently and not out of habit (routine re-election of incumbents) or emotionally ("I like his looks") or using partisanship ("I vote the Party").

    And, no, I'm not optimistic... but I am always hopeful.

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  24. I left the countryside for a job and training, i left London because of the traffic, crowding, and lack of open spaces, but i left England for a cheaper climate and the chance to learn how a poorer people could appear to be happier.

    You all know that possessions do not bring contentment, but your system does not accept the wisdom of this position.

    Cheap oil has all but gone, but the truth of its actual abundance will be kept from the public - as it always has been. The consumers are the biggest fools in this scenario, and will not vote for a political party that tries to constrain their wants.

    Just wait for the riots - move to a poor country when you can, and have a better life.

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  25. Surely voters need to be offered choices in order to use intelligence deciding? I personally don't waste any grey cells pondering how voters might change their ways to their advantage. Simply; most people have no defence against the forces acting to control them. History will change their habits as it always does.

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  26. @Bob Loosemore

    Surely voters need to be offered choices in order to use intelligence deciding?

    Perhaps. It would be a good thing if they were. The problem is, who's doing the offering? And, in your Brave New World, who would do it? Some people who think they are the gifted elite who are smarter, better, more enlightened than the masses (who must be led because they are really just "sheep")?

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  27. Bob,

    Agreed! While I did not move to a poorer nation, I moved to a poorer region of my own country -- which has now become poorer still due to the short-sightedness and greed of The People Who “Matter”. It all makes me very sad for my less-fortunate neighbors.

    The Independent Cuss

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  28. Independent Cuss:

    Sure, lots of what we tout is theoretical in nature (but principle based) and designed to "rally the troops."

    Additionally, we recognize the practical realities associated with applying our principles. However, as a starting point for making changes in one's life (or changes in our collective society), one has to feel that one can do so. Saying that one can't or that one does not have any options, doesn't get one anywhere with respect to the goals of change.

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  29. CorfuBob, you wrote:

    "The consumers... will not vote for a political party that tries to constrain their WANTS." [Capitalization added.]

    This is a very powerful statement, and gets to the crux of many issues, and explains why western countries have so many problems, and so few leaders who appear to be able to solve them. A substantial portion of the population can not balance a check book, stay in a marriage, and keep their children out of trouble. How in the world does society expect us to elect leaders capable of ignoring current citizen wants and doing what is in the best long-term interests of society (although we acknowledge that can be difficult to define)?

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  30. CorfuBob wrote: "Simply; most people have no defence against the forces acting to control them."

    Fascinating; absolutely fascinating. If this is the sentiment of citizens in western industrialized countries, we best wish for wise, visionary, and benevolent leadership, or we are simply doomed.

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  31. A couple of years ago, during the Presidential primary campaigns, C-Span2 Book TV, aired a program featuring the author of a book examining American voters, entitled Just How Stupid Are We?. You may find it interesting.

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  32. I have harbored similar thoughts about jurors. My faith in that system gets restored now and then. No system is perfect.

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  33. The link to "Just How Stupid are We?" carries one to a preview of the book. One is able to read a number of pages of the work. Fascinating findings.

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  34. Much has been said to suggest that many feel that U.S. corporations "betrayed" our nation or otherwise did something improper in taking their manufacturing facilities overseas, thus leading to a reduction of jobs here.

    Why we understand the emotional reaction to this move, we are still somewhat confused about the purported logical underpinnings of this reaction, which ultimately has to do with our ability to resolve the issue.

    As a practical matter, isn't it the responsibility of each individual to "create jobs?" Work with us on this one.

    There are individuals. Individuals in society decide to form an entity and and pursue a particular endeavor. That endeavor grows and expands, and at some point decides to move its facilities overseas to reduce costs. If individuals have the choice and freedom to either create or not create jobs, and the choice to do whatever with their money and their lives, why is it that many are so upset when groups of individuals decide to do the same thing?

    And if it is the responsibility of corporations to provide jobs, isn't it also the responsibility of individuals (subsets of corporations) to provide jobs?

    Aren't we arguably directing our ire toward the wrong groups of individuals? Shouldn't we be directing it toward the groups of citizens who have not chosen to create jobs?

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  35. Independent Cuss:

    There's still lots more meat in your original responsive comment.

    You wrote: "If you read my comments carefully, you will see that my issue is not strictly with “job creation” but rather trading those jobs which did exist here for drastically compromised national security – a lose-lose situation if ever one existed."

    We are in 100% absolute agreement regarding those actions which compromised national security. One of the things that made America great was its ability to convert its manufacturing resources into war time resources during WWII. Although we do not have any research or studies to support this, we doubt that it would be easy to transition into that mode at this point.

    By the way, if you have not already done so, check out Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: 1500-2000." It essentially provides statistical and financial data to support many of your arguments.

    It sounds as if you are suggesting that before an American corporation is allowed to carry any of its resources, people, and technology overseas, the move should be examined by some "agency" or "authority" to determine whether it potentially may have national security implications. Is that so? Is this an appropriate governmental "action," or is it potentially "intrusive?"

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  36. 'Spector,

    Should We, the People re-order our entire society just to accommodate the greed and the short-sightedness of traitors? Hell, no.

    TIC

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  37. ‘Spector wrote: “It sounds as if you are suggesting that before an American corporation is allowed to carry any of its resources, people, and technology overseas, the move should be examined by some "agency" or "authority" to determine whether it potentially may have national security implications. Is that so?”

    No! If it were up to me, I’d tell ‘em to hand over their passport and inform the traitor(s)-in-question that he/she/they/their corporation were now citizens of the nation to which they wished to export our jobs and national security -- for doing no more than suggesting that they wished to do so! Yes, it is hyperbole . . . sort of.

    But you must understand how strongly this treasonous sell-out affects many Americans. When one is suffering from a gunshot wound, his doctors do not convene a study group and then spend days deliberating about the best course of action; they try to stop the bleeding NOW. Have you not seen the pictures of Detroit? How can this travesty be anything other than a soon-to-be fatal gut-shot? I say stop the bleeding now by any measure necessary. Historians will one day declare this “free trade” madness to have been the single most fatal decision which was made in the history of the nation formerly known as the United States.

    TIC

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  38. Is it treasonous for the U.S. to aid, in any fashion, countries who have been, are, and may be, competitors of the U.S.?

    Is it treasonous for our universities to educate students from foreign countries?

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  39. Whatever people think, there will always be a tiny minority who CAN lead the masses, they ARE an elite. We are never going to be helped by someone who is without the gift of swaying large numbers of us to unified action after unifying some of our opinions.

    Of course 'people' must be led, and so what if they resemble sheep. What's wrong with being a sheep Douglas? Better than being a rat....

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  40. It is quite inspiring to read your comments, and i want to take this opportunity of wishing you well, especially if you are able to let me know somehow. Bob

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  41. IC - ic is perfectly entitled to claim that in environments deserted by employers the average person cannot just go out and get a job. Even if everyone was skilled and healthy some would get chosen by employers, and some not. If capital is not available to the enterprising - and this will always be a relative minority - what can they do?

    It is one thing to say to an individual "You CAN do something" but not very bright to address this advice to an entire class of people.

    How is life going?

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"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

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