Annual Drug Related Deaths in the US – Marijuana Ranks Last … With ZERO

An interesting study on

  1. (2000) “The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75,000), toxic agents (55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).”

    Correction: According to a correction published by the Journal on January 19, 2005, “On page 1240, in Table 2, ‘400,000 (16.6)’ deaths for ‘poor diet and physical inactivity’ in 2000 should be ‘365,000 (15.2).’ A dagger symbol should be added to ‘alcohol consumption’ in the body of the table and a dagger footnote should be added with ‘in 1990 data, deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in alcohol consumption deaths, but not in motor vehicle deaths. In 2000 data, 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in both alcohol consumption and motor vehicle death categories.”


    Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, (March 10, 2004), G225 Vol. 291, No. 10, p. 1238, 1240.
    Source for Correction: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298.

  2. (2009 – heroin) “More than 60 per cent of drug treatment demand in Asia and Europe relate to opiates that are, especially heroin, the most deadly drugs. Deaths due to overdose are, in any single year, as high as 5,000-8,000 in Europe, and several times this amount in the Russian Federation alone.”


    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium” (Vienna, Austria: October 2009, p. 7.…

  3. (2009 – drug violence in Mexico) “The cross-border flow of money and guns into Mexico from the United States has enabled well-armed and well-funded cartels to engage in violent activities. They employ advanced military tactics and utilize sophisticated weaponry such as sniper rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and even mortars in attacks on security personnel. DTOs have openly challenged the GOM through conflict and intimidation and have fought amongst themselves to control drug distribution routes. The results led to unprecedented violence and a general sense of insecurity in certain areas of the country, particularly near the U.S. border. Between January and September 2009, there were 5,874 drug-related murders in Mexico, an almost 5 percent increase over 2008 (5,600).”


    United States Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I, Drug and Chemical Control,” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State: March 2010)p. 432.

  4. (2008 – drug violence in Mexico) “More than 5,600 people died in drug trafficking violence in Mexico in 2008, more than double the prior year. This escalation in the level of violence was matched by a growing ferocity. Beginning in early 2008, there was an increase in assassinations of high-level law enforcement officials, gruesome murders including beheadings, violent kidnappings, use of a growing and varied arsenal of high-powered weapons, and one incidence of indiscriminate killing of civilians.6 The battle for control of the multi-billion dollar drug trade has been—and continues to be—brutal. While the U.S. and Mexican media began to shift their attention away from the sensational crimes allegedly committed by the Mexican DTOs in late spring, the high numbers of killings have continued, exceeding an estimated 2,000 thus far in 2009.”


    Beittel, June S., “Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence,” Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, May 27, 2009), pp. 7-8.

  5. (2006 – alcohol) “In 2006, a total of 22,073 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States (Tables 23 and 24). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol, but also accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome.”


    Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.

  6. (2006 – suicide) The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 33,300 deaths from suicide in the US.


    Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.

  7. (2006 – drug induced causes) “In 2006, a total of 38,396 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 21 and 22). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of legal or illegal drugs, but also poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother’s drug use.”


    Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.

  8. (2006 – homicide) “The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 18,573 deaths from homicide in the US.


    Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.

  9. (2003 – HIV and race) The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2003, HIV disease was the 22nd leading cause of death in the US for whites, the 9th leading cause of death for blacks, and the 13th leading cause of death for Hispanics.


    Heron, Melonie P., PhD, Smith, Betty L., BsED, Division of Vital Statistics, “Deaths: Leading Causes for 2003,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 55, No. 10 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, March 15, 2007), p. 10, Table E, and p. 12, Table F.

  10. (2000 – illicit drug use) “Illicit drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. An estimated 3 million individuals in the United States have serious drug problems. Several studies have reported an undercount of the number of deaths attributed to drugs by vital statistics; however, improved medical treatments have reduced mortality from many diseases associated with illicit drug use. In keeping with the report by McGinnis and Foege, we included deaths caused indirectly by illicit drug use in this category. We used attributable fractions to compute the number of deaths due to illicit drug use. Overall, we estimate that illicit drug use resulted in approximately 17000 deaths in 2000, a reduction of 3000 deaths from the 1990 report.”


    Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, (March 10, 2004), G225 Vol. 291, No. 10, 1242.

  11. (1999 – marijuana) “Indeed, epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality.”


    Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 109.

  12. (1998 – hospitalization) “Our study revealed that experiencing an ADR [Adverse Drug Reaction] while hospitalized substantially increased the risk of death (1971 excess deaths, OR 1.208, 95% CI 1.184-1.234). This finding reflects about a 20% increase in mortality associated with an ADR in hospitalized patients. Extrapolating this finding to all patients suggests that 2976 Medicare patients/year and 8336 total patients/year die in U.S. hospitals as a direct result of ADRs; this translates to approximately 1.5 patients/hospital/year.”


    C. A. Bond, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP and Cynthia L. Raehl, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, “Adverse Drug Reactions in United States Hospitals,” Pharmacotherapy, 2006;26(5):601-608.

  13. (1998 – marijuana)
    “3. The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility of lethal effects. Can the drug cause death?

    “4. Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

    “5. This is a remarkable statement. First, the record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience. Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.

    “6. By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year.

    “7. Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.

    “8. At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.

    “9. In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.”


    US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition” (Docket #86-22), September 6, 1988, p. 56-57.

  14. (1998 – adverse drug reactions) “Adverse drug reactions are a significant public health problem in our health care system. For the 12,261,737 Medicare patients admitted to U.S. hospitals, ADRs were projected to cause the following increases: 2976 deaths, 118,200 patient-days, $516,034,829 in total charges, $37,611,868 in drug charges, and $9,456,698 in laboratory charges. If all Medicare patients were considered, these figures would be 3 times greater.”


    C. A. Bond, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, and Cynthia L. Raehl, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, Texas, “Adverse Drug Reactions in United States Hospitals” Pharmacotherapy, 2006;26(5):601-608.

  15. (1996 – NSAIDS) “Each year, use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) accounts for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States.” (NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid.)


    Robyn Tamblyn, PhD; Laeora Berkson, MD, MHPE, FRCPC; W. Dale Jauphinee, MD, FRCPC; David Gayton, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Roland Grad, MD, MSc; Allen Huang, MD, FRCPC; Lisa Isaac, PhD; Peter McLeod, MD, FRCPC; and Linda Snell, MD, MHPE, FRCPC, “Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice,” Annals of Internal Medicine (Washington, DC: American College of Physicians, 1997), September 15, 1997, 127:429-438.
    Citing: Fries, JF, “Assessing and understanding patient risk,” Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology Supplement, 1992;92:21-4.

… just in case people were wondering if there was any point in the US government’s war on drugs :)

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The BP Oil Spill – Brought to You by Uncle Sam …

So long as people believe in the necessity of a government, there is no need to act surprised about the inevitable moral hazard that comes with it. Furthermore, there is no need to be surprised about cozy public/private partnerships between regulators and regulated, who always turn out to be on the same side. We need more regulation, NOT more government!!

The BP oil spill is a grandiose example of how government interventionism has brought about yet another gigantic disaster, and how individuals nonetheless clamor for more state power, viz more power to the guys with the guns and the prisons, as the magical panacea to this immensely complex problem. Wouldn’t it be great if only it was that simple!? :)

Let me just list a few things that come to my mind right now, that would not exist, if it weren’t for a group of people with the right to perform acts of aggression against peaceful individuals with impunity, a.k.a. the government:

  • The government created legal entity called “corporation” as a shield for individuals to avoid taking responsibility for losses
  • Taxpayer funded cleanup of environmental disasters, while not a single one of the executives in charge will lose a house, a car, or anything else that would make him learn anything from this.
  • Government regulations that prohibit drilling on the land, pushing drillers off into the deep ocean for incredibly risky drilling ventures
  • Military presence in the middle east, thus subsidizing the flow of oil into western countries, and discouraging from the use of alternative fuels
  • A national oil reserve, generating additionally coerced demand for oil, again shouldered by the oh so invisible taxpayer

I’m sure there are many more things, but those are just the most obvious ones to me.

I found a great piece on C4SS as well, In a Truly Free Market, BP Would Be Toast:

… Let’s take a look, instead, at how a free market (a genuine free market, in which all economic actors do business on their own nickel, as opposed to the system of corporate-government collusion we’ve had for over 150 years) might deal with something like the British Petroleum oil spill.

Without a government-imposed liability cap, BP would be liable to the full value of its assets not only for cleanup costs, but for the full amount of economic damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Estimates of damage to tourism and fishing center on around $5 billion, but it could be far worse if the slick spreads far enough to affect fishing and boating for Florida’s $65 billion tourism industry (just think of the Everglades). Keep in mind, also, that we’re not just talking about one-off costs this year; we’re talking about big hits to fishing and tourism for years to come, especially as the movement of toxic chemicals up the food chain may make Gulf seafood inedible for generations. This is not just a one-year loss of income from 130,000 fishing jobs, but possibly an end to these people’s careers. There are also possible indirect effects if the loss of wetlands increases coastal areas’ vulnerability to hurricanes.

And that’s not even taking into account the possibility of criminal negligence by BP executives — who apparently rivaled Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship in cutting corners for just about every conceivable kind of safety measure — and the cleaning out of their personal assets by angry juries.

And remember, we’re talking about liability in addition to cleanup costs, which were $3.8 billion for the less severe Exxon Valdez spill.

These cumulative damages stack up pretty tall against BP’s total equity, which was around a hundred billion (at least before its stock took a hit the last month or so).

So absent a liability cap, as the flood of individual and class action lawsuits ate up the company’s equity, the market pressure for holding robust liability insurance (for damages up to tens of billions of dollars) would be a well-nigh non-negotiable prerequisite for economic viability in the industry.

And let’s face it. After what happened with BP, in a legal regime with no limits to liability short of total liquidation of a corporation’s assets, insurers will have a pretty significant interest in making sure policy-holders don’t bankrupt them.

What passed for federal regulations were ineffectual because, among other things, it’s not the federal government’s own money that’s at risk. Things get downright chummy between regulators and regulated. Inspectors sleeping with executives and snorting crystal meth off of toaster ovens is what you call a “public-private partnership,” I guess.

I mean, seriously. When Congress and the White House are packed with people who all got millions of dollars in campaign contributions from all sorts of regulated industries, and most of the political appointees in regulatory bodies are former directors and vice presidents of corporations in the regulated industries, how tough do you think that regulation’s gonna be? Last I heard, brown pelicans don’t contribute much to campaign funds.

But if relations between regulators and regulated aren’t really all that adversarial, you know what is adversarial? Relations between insurers and the insured. Insurance companies are notorious for not liking to pay claims, and for taking an adversarial view of policyholders who make them. Especially when slipshod safety measures mean a multi-billion dollar payout from the insurance company’s own funds. And the “adversarial” relationship is likely to entail things like actual inspections to make sure the failsafe devices work, maybe requiring relief wells as a standard precaution, things like that.

Insurance companies take the kind of adversarial attitude toward the insured that liberals only wish government regulators took toward regulated industries.

It is sooo important, I can’t repeat it often enough, to understand the immensely beneficial role that free insurance companies, and insurance ratings and premiums, would play in a stateless society. The desire to be insured against catastrophic damages of this kind is in universal demand, and opportunities to make profits would drive numerous competing agencies into this field.

We all know from our own lives how well insurance companies are capable at making their clients more disciplined and careful in their lives, simply by the means of charging and potentially upping premiums. We all know how harmful a bad ebay rating is for our future prospects of doing business on the platform. We all understand in our own lives that it ain’t right to walk around and point guns at people and steal from them.

Lil’ Billy and lil’ Timmy know intuitively that something is seriously wrong when Mom, for the 100th time, makes them clean up their bigger brother Jimmy’s apple juice spill. Would you recommend that they run to Mom again about this problem?

People, we have to come to our senses for once! The solutions and the truth are right before your eyes! It actually takes effort and brain bending to NOT see them!!

Here are two more great clips from Freedomain Radio on this matter:

In particular I would like for those who truly care for the environment (and I dearly hope that environmentalists do) to look into this matter. It’s simply too important and the consequences are too tragic to keep repeating the same old mistakes over and over again. What a mess!

And it keeps going and going and going …

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Medical Students’ Debt and Other Symptoms of the Government’s Meddling With Health Care

It is indeed hard to find an industry in the United States that has been more stifled, choked, besieged, corrupted, and interfered with through government interventionism and subsidies than healthcare. It is, from the point of view of pure evil, really quite a beautiful example of how in a few decades you can turn a complete sector into a gigantic mess on all fronts by slowly getting your sleazy fingers deeper and deeper into it.

The attack on health care by bureaucrats is such a fascinating and instructive example because it is blatantly pursued through numerous different angles, way out in the open and clearly visible, while the public kneels down in awe and, in truly masochistic fashion, asks for more and more abuse, year after year.

I already outlined the economics behind the government’s health care meddling and how the establishment of lasting industry monopolies and the deliberate restriction of supply cements and aggravates high cost of goods and services rendered:

The problem with health care in the US, but in virtually every other country in the world as well, is a simple one: The goods (products and services) offered on the market that address illnesses and and improve our well being are offered at prices that are so high that most consumers are unable to afford a sufficient amount to address their demands.

On top of that, these prices are continuously rising. All other health care issues stem from this simple fact. Health insurance premiums, for example, are charged based on the prices that competing insurers expect to end up paying for health care goods. Thus, naturally, health insurance premiums are on the rise as well, even in the current deflationary environment. The rapid increase in government expenses for its entitlement programs Medicare and Medicaid, too, is simply the result of these ongoing price increases. It is thus not a coincidence that today the US government spends more than any other industrialized nation on health.

On the market, such imbalances are, under free competition, swiftly addressed via a simple process: High prices for certain consumer goods indicate a high demand and an insufficient supply. Thus profit seeking entrepreneurs have an incentive to shift from what they are currently doing to focusing on producing more of such highly demanded goods, by employing more commensurate factors of production that turn out the demanded goods. This leads to a decline in their prices, moving the market closer to equilibrium and thus restoring balance.

But when a group of people which obtains its means of operation via aggression and theft, the government,  imposes decrees that prevent the voluntary market participants to perform such balancing acts, and threaten them with imprisonment and fines should they not oblige, the imbalance will persist. If that group’s actions are such as to bring about even more shortages for the demanded goods, the imbalance will grow, prices will keep rising.

As an outcome of such an interventionist policy, there will always be a small group of entrepreneurs that benefits from the protection awarded against competition and voluntary action on the part of consumers and new entrepreneurs. They naturally reap the benefits from the ability to charge prices that are not being bid down by potentially competing entrepreneurs. It is important to keep this fact in mind when members of such groups utter statements that attempt to justify the policies that have brought about and continue to maintain the imbalance.

It is really an impressive spiderweb of all round government control:

On the drugs side, the FDA decides which drug may or may not enter the market and imposes lifecycles of up to 15 years before a drug is approved. 80% of drug costs can be linked directly to FDA rules that need to be followed.

On the services side, state and federal laws require practitioners to obtain government licenses in order to practice.

Institutions that teach medical practice are naturally also subject to such regulations and medical degree programs thus take an enormous amount of time and capital to complete. Students need to incur debt in order to be able to afford the studies.

Well, at least the market for those student loans is free and unhampered with by the government … right? Well, wrong! This is what I mean when I say what a beautiful, flawless, and fascinating example of all round government meddling and control we have here. The feds of course heavily subsidize student loans through the government sponsored, and now outright nationalized corporation Fannie Mae.

On the fiscal side, through the programs of Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government alone is responsible for 50% of all medical expenditures made in the country.

If health products and services weren’t so expensive, the need for health insurance would be virtually non existent, except for truly catastrophic events, which is what insurance is all about in pretty much any other sector. But since government intervention has created the problems outlined above, it also deems it necessary, as always, to regulate the effects of its meddling, an iron law of interventionism. Thus the government also heavily regulates the business of health insurance, making it illegal to purchase health insurance across state lines and legislating premiums and insurance policy requirements wherever they see fit.

In light of all this it is rather funny that people would act surprised about constantly rising health costs and insurance premiums and on top of that demand that of all people the government step in and “solve” the problem by grabbing more power. The most recent legislation that aims at regulating health insurance more tightly is just another example for this. Soon we will once again see the good old, so often tried, and so consistently failing measures of price control and rationing as the “solution” to health premiums.

A predictable side effect and yet another reason for rising cost that I would like to touch on here is the phenomenon of enormous debts owed by medical students after they graduate, incurred during their long and expensive studies at government accredited institutions. In order to pay off these debts, medical doctors are practically required to charge higher prices for their services.

The AMA provides background information on medical student debt:

Student debt statistics

* $156,456 – According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2009.
* 79 percent of graduates have debt of at least $100,000.
* 58 precent of graduates have debt of at least $150,000.
* 87 percent of graduating medical students carry outstanding loans.

Source: AAMC 2009 Graduation Questionnaire
Why medical education debt has increased

Medical education debt is driven by rising tuition. AAMC data show that median private medical school tuition and fees increased by 50 percent (in real dollars) in the 20 years between 1984 and 2004. Median public medical school tuition and fees increased by 133 percent over the same time period. Other recent 20-year periods show similar trends.

Tuition is just one source of increasing debt burdens. Other causes include:

* Interest accrued on loans over time significantly adds to the total cost of student debt.
* Students are now entering medical school with more education debt from undergraduate education.
* Increasing numbers of “non-traditional” students who have children to support.

Debt crisis harms both students and patients

The increase in debt not only burdens medical students, but can have effects on the entire health care system. Some of correlations found include:

Decrease in primary care physicians

* Students with high debt may be less likely to pursue family practice and primary care specialties and instead seek specialties with higher income or more leisure time.

Decreased diversity of physician workforce

* The cost of tuition can prevent students from low-income/minority and those with other financial responsibilities from attending medical school.
* Physician diversity is necessary to address the needs of heterogeneous, multicultural patient populations.

Promoting unsafe physician behaviors

* Residents with high debt are more likely to moonlight.
* Increasing debt leads to more cynicism and depression among residents.

How can we reduce debt?

The MSS has come up with recommendations for legislative and administrative remedies to resolve the medical education debt crisis. These recommendations focus on controlling tuition, the principal component of education costs, but include a number of relatively simple administrative measures that could be taken immediately and at a low cost to individual medical schools.

And again: the AMA concludes that the solution to the problems created by government legislation and intervention is to “come up with recommendations for legislative and administrative remedies to resolve the medical education debt crisis.”

The best comedian couldn’t make such a farce up :))

The real solution is a lot more simple, intuitive, and measurable than such nonsense: Stop using guns against people who have done you no harm, get the government out of the way, and society will flourish. For guns are not the answer to complex and structural problems, voluntaryism is.

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Australia & Censorship – Orwellian Disease on the March

The internet is probably one of the world’s most striking examples of how a stateless society can not only function, but also grow and advance much more rapidly, cheaply, and reliably than any sector that is subject to state regulations. As such, it is obviously a major blow in the face of our dear government bureaucrats.

Thus it is only predictable that our neurotic, sociopathic, and insecure state minions will sooner or later attempt to get their sleazy fingers involved to bring to a halt yet another shining beacon of free, peaceful, and voluntary enterprise.

The Australian Rudd government, under the pretense of keeping the people safe from “unsavory” content, is planning to setup a nationwide filter which would enable them to censor online content. Similar trends may soon emerge, if they haven’t already, in virtually all western countries.

The Australian Pirate Party seems to be one of the major opponents of this endeavor. A spokesperson recently posted and article which sheds some more light on what is going on in Down Under:

I used to believe that democracy was a process whereby the representatives we elect were there to represent the people. Stephen Conroy, the minister for Broadband and Communications, has taken this concept and trashed it in new and exciting ways.

While we, the citizens of Australia, have made it blatantly clear that we neither want nor require the nanny-state of Australia to impinge on our rights further by restricting our access to the internet in the name of “child protection”, Conroy continues to soldier on with his censorship plans regardless of what the majority thinks.

As the vast majority of Australian citizens can see, Conroy’s insane plan to censor the internet — or as he puts it, “filter” — is a blatant attempt to restrict our freedoms and enforce his brand of “morality” on us all.

Consider that Conroy’s proposed filter is a blindfold, metaphorically speaking. It simply hides the fact that bad things are out there. Instead of actively fighting the issues within society, he labels those who oppose blatant censorship as paedophiles and criminals, and attempts to enforce his fascist regime against us.

There are a large variety of ways that child pornography can be halted, such as actually tracking down and arresting those who facilitate the production and transfer of such materials, or sending a take-down request to the host of these illicit sites to have them removed. Conroy is a bright man, so he wouldn’t be so ignorant as to not know that, so it begs to question, why censor us in the name of “child protection”?

Protecting children is a very important aspect of a parent’s job. Simply the suggestion that Australia requires an internet filter when all Western societies deem this kind of social control inappropriate, is a joke and an insult to parents everywhere.

The Howard Government offered a perfectly viable home application for parents who believed they needed software assistance to protect their children. The Rudd Government’s regime differs significantly in that it is not optional whatsoever, and will be enforced across all ISPs.

The statistics of the uptake of the Howard Government’s application clearly show that Australian parents do not need such applications to protect their children from the internet, so why enforce a nanny state when the vast majority of Australians are opposed to it?

Most of Australia is opposed to this filter, as can be shown through various polls, news articles, blog posts, protests and Twitter tweets. If this is a representative democracy, then why is it that Conroy refuses to accept that Australia does not want the filter? 96 per cent of Australians (in polls from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald with 20,000+ votes) have stated they believe the censorship regime “impinges on their freedom”, so why does Conroy insist on implementing such a draconian censorship scheme?

Conroy is a bright man, and this is the dangerous thing about him. He is representing himself and the ultra-conservative minorities. He knows how to play the political game. Releasing the trial report near Christmas knowing full well that people will likely miss it is a dirty tactic.

Even his horribly distorted view of “100 per cent accurate” when the trial report clearly shows that the accuracy “dropped to between 78.8 per cent and 84.6 per cent” when using a list of just over 2000 sites is just insane. If this is 100 per cent accuracy, then this man needs a new abacus.

If you believe that 3 per cent is not all that much, consider the size of the internet. Pretend for a moment that the internet consists of “merely” 100 million websites. If 3 per cent of these were accidentally blocked, that’s 3 million! That’s not a small number now is it? Now you understand how it feels to live behind the Great Firewall of China.

And while these trials were only conducted on speeds up to 8Mbps, articles have popped up stating their fear that this will ruin the government’s own National Broadband Network plans, as it will completely cripple the speeds of this service, which is planned to be capable of “delivering speeds of 100 megabits per second”, at least 10 times that of most residential connections. These speeds will no longer be feasible.

Just wait until Australia must implement the new version of the internet protocol, IPv6. This would become extremely unlikely, as IPv6 supports encryption from computer to computer as a required part of the protocol. How would this possibly be implemented when the government fears the “abuse of the internet” so much? Once again, Australia would be left in the dark as has happened many times in the past in regards to technology. In this global society, we cannot afford to be left behind.

Now that we’ve considered the technical points of this flawed plan, it is time to consider the cost to implement such a travesty. A government report from 2004 provides an estimate of the cost of running such a complex censorship regime:

“On the basis of Ovum’s estimates and factoring in the most recent ABS data of ISP numbers in Australia, the total cost of implementing ISP-level filtering would be over $45 million for initial set-up and over $33 million per annum.”

Why cite such an old report you may ask? Well, it’s because the Rudd Government didn’t even consider conducting a financial feasibility study, which is absolutely absurd. And who do you think gets hit with the cost of such a costly regime? The Australian taxpayer and consumer. First we’re slugged with a censorship regime that makes little sense, and then, to pour salt in the wound, they charge us for the privilege of being silenced! The audacity of this government is absolutely terrifying.

All fascist regimes have to start somewhere. This is just the beginning. While Conroy has stated that he only intends to block “unsavoury content”, he has not ruled out further blocking in the future, nor in the present. Note the constant use of “RC” in each of the articles related to the filter.

Note that these articles also state that Refused Classification content includes “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime and drug use”. Nowhere does it is state that RC is limited to these things, which infers the fact that the censorship regime will broaden to encompass a wide range of websites that an extreme minority of people are opposed to, thus nobody should be allowed access to them.

This belief that they will expand the censorship is only hardened by the fact that the ACMA blacklist leaked to WikiLeaks contained a dentist’s website, legal pornography sites and other non-illegal websites, such as anti-abortion sites.

The correct definition of RC contains anything rejected by the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) as an “insult to morality”. In this country, due to the failure of representative democracy, the attorney-general of South Australia, Michael Atkinson, has the power to block the right of adults of Australia to determine for themselves whether or not they are allowed to play games that contain mature content.

This insanity continues to manifest, but when will we force it to stop? Why is the extreme minority of ultra-conservatives so much louder than the vast majority of Australian citizens?

Is it honestly that difficult to promote safe use of the internet, and educate parents and children on how they keep themselves safe on the internet, instead of treating Australian citizens like a bunch of uneducated morons who can’t think for themselves? Self-determination is what defines freedom, and this is the first step in taking that out of our hands.

In any case, censorship is by far the worst way to go about anything. Without a doubt, attempting to implement a censorship regime in a country that thrives and promotes their freedom is most definitely political suicide on an epic scale. The Labor Party is now much more likely to suffer a swift defeat in the elections if they don’t quickly realise how out of touch they are with the Australian public. Or have they suddenly forgotten about using this very argument against the Liberals in regards to their IR reforms?

The worst part about this is that the intended goals of the censorship regime are completely unachievable, yet the government continues to power on with its struggle to control and censor its own people. All it causes is freedom of speech issues, possible abuse mechanisms by politicians, and in the end, will not curb any of the unlawful behaviour on the internet as is apparently intended.

We are not alone in our fear of government censorship. Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has actively spoken against the filter, saying it is “the thin end of the wedge of the government moving in to regulating the actual internet itself”. Even Google has spoken out against the filter, stating that the scope is “far too wide”. All the experts agree and so does the Australian public, and yet Conroy continues on his ill-guided crusade against freedom.

Great citizens of Australia, it is time to speak up and fight for your rights and your freedom. It is time to act. If we don’t act now, we might as well give up any notion of freedom or privacy that we have. Prepare for the dystopia. It can only get worse from here on.

For specific cited reasons for why the censorship regime cannot and will not work, see this page at Electronic Frontiers Australia.

… I encourage people who value one of our most precious civil rights, the freedom of speech, to show solidarity with the Australian Pirate Party on this matter. And in our own communities, too, we need to ensure that such Orwellian endeavors never succeed.

For if publishing opinions and news on the internet one day becomes as impossible for the common man as it already is in the mainstream media, many great ideas and correct concepts will remain unshared, and the truth will be all the more obfuscated and remote … a paradise for the enemies of truth: the governments, bureaucrats, privileged corporations, religious leaders, think tanks, and whoever else subsists on falsehoods, lies, and distortions.

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Treasury Scraps Limits for Fannie/Freddie Funding – How the US Government Created, Continued, and Perpetuated the Crisis

To get an idea of things to come in 2010, one need only look at the Treasury’s recent removal of all funding limits previously self-imposed on spending taxpayer money on Fannie and Freddie …

The Obama administration’s decision to cover an unlimited amount of losses at the mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the next three years stirred controversy over the holiday.

The Treasury announced Thursday it was removing the caps that limited the amount of available capital to the companies to $200 billion each.

Unlimited access to bailout funds through 2012 was “necessary for preserving the continued strength and stability of the mortgage market,” the Treasury said. Fannie and Freddie purchase or guarantee most U.S. home mortgages and have run up huge losses stemming from the worst wave of defaults since the 1930s.

“The timing of this executive order giving Fannie and Freddie a blank check is no coincidence,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee. He said the Christmas Eve announcement was designed “to prevent the general public from taking note.”

Treasury officials couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

So far, Treasury has provided $60 billion of capital to Fannie and $51 billion to Freddie. Mahesh Swaminathan, a senior mortgage analyst at Credit Suisse in New York, said he didn’t believe Fannie and Freddie would need more than $200 billion apiece from the Treasury. But he and other analysts have said the market would find a larger commitment from the Treasury reassuring.

In exchange for the funding, the Treasury has received preferred stock in the companies paying 10% dividends. The Treasury also has warrants to acquire nearly 80% of the common shares in each firm.

The Treasury removed the cap on the size of available bailout funds by amending agreements it reached with the companies in September 2008, when the government seized control of the agencies under a legal process called conservatorship. The agreement allowed the Treasury to make amendments through the end of the year, without the consent of Congress. Changes made after Dec. 31 would likely involve a struggle with lawmakers over the terms.

Some Republicans are angry the administration is expanding the potential size of the bailout without having a plan for eventually ending the federal government’s role in the companies.

The Treasury reiterated administration plans for a “preliminary report” on the government’s future role in the mortgage market around the time the federal budget proposal is released in February.

The companies on Thursday disclosed new packages that will pay Fannie Chief Executive Officer Michael Williams and Freddie CEO Charles Haldeman Jr. as much as $6 million a year, including bonuses. The packages were approved by the Treasury and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, which regulates the companies.

The FHFA said compensation for executive officers of the companies in 2009, on average, is down 40% from the pay levels before the conservatorship.

Under the conservatorship, top officers of Fannie and Freddie take their cues from the Treasury and regulators on all major decisions, current and former executives say. The government has made foreclosure-prevention efforts its top priority.

The pay packages for top officers are entirely in cash; company shares have been trading on the New York Stock Exchange at less than $2 apiece, and it isn’t clear when the companies will to profitability or whether common shares will have any value in the long term.

For the CEOs, annual compensation consists of a base salary of $900,000, deferred base salary of $3.1 million and incentive pay of as much as $2 million.

When Mr. Haldeman was hired by Freddie in July, the company set his base pay at $900,000 and said his additional “incentive” pay would depend on a decision by the regulator.

At Fannie, Mr. Williams was chief operating officer until he was promoted in April to CEO. As COO, his base salary was $676,000. He also had annual deferred pay of $2.3 million and a long-term incentive award of as much as $1.5 million.

Under the new packages, Fannie will pay as much as about $3.6 million annually to David M. Johnson, chief financial officer; $2.4 million to Kenneth Bacon, who heads a unit that finances apartment buildings; $2.8 million to David Benson, capital markets chief; $2.2 million to David Hisey, deputy chief financial officer; $3 million to Timothy Mayopoulos, general counsel; and $2.8 million to Kenneth Phelan, chief risk officer.

At Freddie, annual compensation will total as much as $4.5 million for Bruce Witherell, chief operating officer; $3.5 million for Ross Kari, chief financial officer; $2.8 million for Robert Bostrom, general counsel; and $2.7 million for Paul George, head of human resources.

The pay deals also drew fire. With unemployment near 10%, “to be handing out $6 million bonuses to essentially federal employees is unconscionable,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who is a frequent critic of Fannie and Freddie.

He also criticized the administration for approving the compensation without settling on a plan to remove taxpayer supports: “To be doing that with no plan in place is just unconscionable.”

The FHFA said that Fannie and Freddie “must attract and retain the talent needed” for their vital role in the mortgage market.

Millions and millions of Dollars paid out to executives that are accountable for nothing but billions of losses. Folks, this is a gravy train and a bonanza, way too beautiful for those involved to ever consider ending it.

I would only like to ask the officials in charge one humble favor: Don’t ever again impute the excesses that led to the crisis on the “free market” and “capitalism“. I have had it with that nonsense. The excesses were put in place, pushed forward, and are being maintained by the government, not the market.

All these people are doing is enriching themselves at the expense of the hard working taxpayer. Fannie and Freddie and with it all those lavish executive compensations for no performance at all would have never existed in a free market.

The market tried to correct all the inevitable consequences of government interventionism, namely Federal Reserve induced credit expansion, its corollary fractional reserve lending and the ensuing business cycle, the establishment of the government backed institutions Fannie and Freddie, the establishment of the government backed credit rating cartel, the ongoing increase in government spending in relation to private spending.

And yet, they STILL manage to get away with avoiding corrective market forces and making people believe that “just a bit more” government intervention, rules, and decrees will solve the problem. Does anyone realize that while sub-prime lending has vanished from the market, the single institution that to this day continues making subprime loans is the US government itself??  How blind and braindead must one be to chime in on this madness?

So please, go on ith your looting sprees, spend as much as you can until the system collapses and buries all its greedy, incompetent bureaucrats with it. But do let go with that incredibly intellect-insulting nonsense about how the market has created and encouraged the excesses of this crisis.

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