Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tourture Is Not Ok!

For years, the United States Military and Secret Service have been performing torture techniques on prisoners of war who have been captured by the US during its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The excuse the US has used for performing enhanced interrogation techniques against detainees is that the US will be able to gather beneficial information in advancing our mission in the Middle East through torture that they would otherwise not be able to capture. The use of enhanced interrogation by the US against prisoners of war has been a very controversial issue with many people in the US and around the world who disagree with the use of such techniques.
After the US military assassinated Osama Bin Laden a couple weeks ago, many questions were asked about how the military became informed of the whereabouts of Bin Laden. In attempting to find the answer to this question, Senator John McCain (ranking member of the Armed Services Committee) asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how information was gathered in finding the exact location of Bin Laden.  In Panetta’s response to McCain, he stated that the years spent interrogating Al Qaeda detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed through techniques such as waterboarding did not lead to any information that helped the CIA find the whereabouts of Bin Laden, and that the information gathered from Mohammed via waterboarding was actually counterproductive in their mission. In a statement made by McCain after learning this information, he said that using torture techniques against Mohammed and other detainees produced false and misleading information in finding Bin Laden. McCain also stated that he had learned the most beneficial information gathered by the CIA in finding Bin Laden was gathered by detainees through non-coercive means. Also, the exact whereabouts of Bin Laden were not fully released by any CIA detainee who had been through enhanced interrogation or not.
The US Military and secret service has been using enhanced interrogation techniques on members of Al Qaeda and other insurgents since 2002, and did not find the exact whereabouts of Bin Laden until 2011. Although some people thought such techniques were beneficial in advancing the US’s mission against Al Qaeda, it took the US 9 years after the implementation of enhanced interrogation on detainees to finally find and kill Bin Laden. Considering the capture of Bin Laden was the top objective of the US in the War on Terror and recent statements by the CIA show enhanced interrogation was more destructive than productive in completing this objective, the US government should rethink such policies. If the US wants to maintain its reputation as being the land of the free and a nation that supports human rights, it should not continue to lower itself to a level where the government views torture as a proper means in gathering information. It is time the US government ban inhumane techniques such as torture and act in a non coercive manner when attempting to gather information that will help the US succeed in fighting the war on terror.
- Liberty_Mike

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bernanke, What Are You Talking About??

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held the first ever Fed press conference. During this press conference, Bernanke discussed the labor market, inflation, commodity prices, the housing sector, monetary policy and the overall health of the US economy. After listening to this staged event hosted by Bernanke, it is all too clear that the press conference was nothing more than a publicity stunt by the Federal Reserve in an attempt to gain public support for recent Fed policies. Since the Federal Reserve has been under attack by critics due to a serious lack of Fed transparency, Bernanke figured that holding a press conference would be a good way to give the public more insight about the Federal Reserve’s policies to calm overall criticism. In reality, this conference gave no real insight about recent policies, and showed how out of touch Bernanke is with American consumers by stating overall inflation is not affecting the US economy.
In his opening statement, Bernanke stated that increases in commodity prices are due to geopolitical developments and robust global demand. He also stated that there have not been any indications that inflation is getting bad enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy, and that the Fed will in fact carry out the rest of their US Treasury bond purchases to complete QE2 by this summer. When asked about QE2 and whether or not the program was successful, Bernanke stated the program has been very successful so far, and that the program has led to overall better economic conditions for the US. In making these statements during the press conference, Bernanke is either trying to trick the American people, or he truly is clueless about inflation and the current devaluation of the US dollar.
Since November 2010 when the Fed took action in pursuing QE2, commodity prices across the board have increased, and the US dollar index has declined. When looking at recent increases in commodity prices and the appreciation of foreign currencies in comparison to the US dollar, it is clear that inflation of the money supply has affected the value of the dollar, and that the Fed should do the exact opposite of what Bernanke stated they would do during last week’s press conference.
Two commodities that are the most sensitive to inflation are the monetary metals gold and silver. Gold hit all time record highs in 2010, and has skyrocketed since January 2011, now priced at over $1500/oz. Silver is near all time record highs ($50/oz in the 1980s), floating around $48/oz. In November 2010 when QE2 had just been announced, Silver was priced under $30/oz. Other metals such as Platinum, Palladium and Copper have increased in price over the past few months as well. Looking at commodities other than metals, oil/gas prices have also increased. Crude oil has significantly increased along with unleaded gas and heating oil. Natural gas prices have also increased since November 2010, although the increase hasn’t been as significant as the increase of other gas prices. Most food based traded commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, hogs and coffee have also increased in price since QE2 began. Along with these across the board increases in commodity prices, the US dollar index has declined in the past few months to around 73, approaching a 5 year low. Foreign currencies such as the Canadian and Australian dollars have recently surpassed the US dollar in value. When looking at the numbers, it is not hard to determine that the current increase in inflation is a problem, and that it is starting to affect the American people. If Ben Bernanke and the Fed do not wake up to this reality soon and take action in tightening monetary policy, the value of the US dollar will continue to decline and American consumers will continue to see a decrease in their standard of living.
- Liberty_Mike