The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Slot Machines vs. Voting Machines

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Banned in 2008

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Consumer Kids and Their Plastic Lives

by Karen De Coster

I went to Bath & Body Works at the mall one morning just before the Christmas shopping season. There I was, an adult with a good job and a career, and I was scrounging for sales and coupons so that I could spend $10 and get items worth $33. In the checkout line there was a woman and her daughter – the girl was about 10 years old and very chubby. The woman was buying a bunch of expensive lotions, fragrances, etc., and she put it on a charge card. The clerk asked the lady for her email to update the computer, and the lady replied that the items were “her daughter’s purchase.” So the girl, with a huge smile on her face, gave the clerk her email and got her bag of luxury-item goodies. The child then turned around to leave the store. I then noticed the words plastered on her t-shirt in huge, obnoxious letters:

I Love to Shop
All the Time

Unfortunately, that little girl is merely a poster child for the rest of America’s children as a result of the intemperance of the bubble years, brought to us by the government’s money machine, the Federal Reserve. The Fed’s expansion of credit and the money supply gave birth not only to all those “no money down” subprime mortgages but the “buy now, pay later” culture of credit-card debt, mountains of which the American public piled up throughout the Greenspan/Bernanke years.

So there was Mom, teaching her child that at 10 years old she too can have luxury items at premium prices, because life is all about spending money (Mom and Dad’s money) and accumulation. Perhaps Mom should be teaching her young daughter about preserving her body and health for the long term, instead of blasting through the malls putting her random desires on charge cards? The child’s obesity, the adult luxury items on a credit card, the t-shirt declaring that accumulation brings pleasure – these are all signs of a depraved and appalling culture that is destroying a large segment of the current generation. Parents are zealously passing on their financial irresponsibility and spiritless lives to their children. That woman’s brainless imprudence will become that poor child’s future.

Years of credit bubble-ignited consumer excesses in America have produced one aftermath that is markedly tragic – the professional child consumer. Children learn, from a very early age, that life is enabled by money because it is money that buys them all the stuff they want to own. Kids have become professional consumers. They covet so they buy, courtesy of parents who are financial slaves to their children’s infantile impulses.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing All of You a
Merry Christmas!

May your family be well this holiday.

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Pardon Me, Mr. President? Et tu, Pat Robertson?

The plenary power of pardon granted to the president is extremely broad.

But so far no word about the possible pardon by Bush of incarcerated Border-Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

The president had set a precedent in the case of Ramos and Compean. For defending their country, and in the process shooting a drug smuggler in the derriere, Bush sicced his bloodhound, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, on these Border Patrol Agents who, absent a pardon, will remain locked up for over a decade.

Although Bush has yet to pardon Scooter Libby, you’ll recall that he commuted his sentence. Bush had spared his fall guy, Lewis Libby, but locked up these patriotic, heroic agents—Ramos and Compean—ostensibly throwing away the key. No remorse expressed from the Creep-in-Chief in their unjust conviction.

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Banking Demystified

by Doug French

Those under the delusion that it was an orgy of deregulation and lack of government oversight in financial markets that has led to the current crash and rash of bank failures and bailouts will be overjoyed to learn that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is doubling its operating budget for 2009 to $2.24 billion and will increase its workforce by 30 percent to 6,269.

The pace of bank busts is quickening, with nearly half of this year’s 25 failures coming in the current quarter. There were only three failures in 2007 as the real estate boom still had fainting signs of life left in it and there were no failures from June 2004 through February 2007 when the boom was in full swing. This boom was driven by huge increases in the money supply created by the Federal Reserve which led to massive mal-investment in: row after row of single family tract homes that were scooped up by panting speculators who financed their punts with cheap no-money down loans, strip malls and suburban office buildings, skyscrapers and casinos the world around.

To the government regulatory world, the banking system was sound while the boom unfolded, but as Murray Rothbard pointed out in his article "The Myth of Free Banking in Scotland" which is included as an appendix in the new addition of The Mystery of Banking, "a dearth of bank failure should rather be treated with suspicion, as witness the drop of bank failures in the United States since the advent of the FDIC."

As Rothbard points out, the banks may be doing fine when there are no failures, but society is getting the worst of it. "Bank failures are a healthy weapon by which the market keeps bank credit expansion in check; an absence of failure might well mean that that check is doing poorly and that inflation of money and credit is all the more rampant," Rothbard wrote. "In any case, a lower rate of bank failure can scarcely be accepted as any sort of evidence for the superiority of a banking system."

With real estate collateral values plunging, credit losses are soaring, decimating the capital ratios of banks all over the world. Large banks that are viewed as "systemically important" such as Citicorp are bailed out. Others are kept alive via capital injections from the government's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). But many of the small fry are (and will be) seized by regulators and liquidated. Thus, of the 1,400 new FDIC positions, two-thirds will be working on the "closed bank" side with the other third working on the "open bank" side, according to FDIC spokesman David Barr.

The folks at the FDIC evidently think 2009 will be a banner year for bank failures. And they should.

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Santa's Helpers

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cooling Is Warming

by Vin Suprynowicz

My relatives in New England are fighting their way out from under a giant ice storm. Here in Las Vegas it's been snowing all week, several weeks earlier than our usual one-day-a-year photo op of snow and icicles sparkling one of our palm-bedecked golf courses before melting away by afternoon. The National Weather Service calls it "a rare snow event."

Why? It's getting colder. 2008 was the coolest year in a decade.

The American mainstream press seem to know "team players" don't mention such inconvenient developments, but in the U.K., the esteemed Guardian reports, "This year is set to be the coolest since 2000, according to a preliminary estimate of global average temperature that is due to be released next week by the Met Office. The global average for 2008 should come in close to 14.3C, which is 0.14C below the average temperature for 2001–07."

How stupid does this make politicians such as Barack Obama and the other suckers who have fallen for the "global warming" hoax as they race to say, "Never mind"?

Actually, they haven't missed a beat. These guys are so "scientific" that the evidence of their own eyes and overcoats has become irrelevant. They now contend global cooling is just further proof of global warming. Honest.

So-called "climate scientists" insist "The relatively chilly temperatures compared with recent years are not evidence that global warming is slowing," The Guardian reports.

Um ... Earth's cooling doesn't mean the Earth is cooling?

"Absolutely not," responds Dr. Peter Stott, the manager of understanding and attributing climate change at the Met Office's Hadley Center. "If we are going to understand climate change we need to look at long-term trends."

You might want to pause and savor that for a moment. This is the gang who keep telling us, "The Debate is over! Dissent no longer allowed! Man-made global warming is going to ruin the Earth!"

Yet they now say cooling "is not evidence that global warming is slowing," and that, "If we are going to understand climate change we need to look at long-term trends."

If we are "going" to understand climate change? Like ... in the future?

Sure, the mean temperature may still go up for a few more years before it plummets. So? None of the great climate cycles of the past needed us to burn coal in our power plants to make them happen, and there's neither evidence nor any intuitive reason to believe the tiny percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide we now generate makes any substantial difference, either.

When will the "Let us take over and wreck your economy so we can save you from the climate boogey-man" gang admit the earth is cooling again, and when will they admit, "OK, since cooling is worse than warming, and our own theory is that mankind can impact global temperature by what we burn, it's now your duty to hold back the Big Freeze by going out there and burning all the fossil fuels you possibly can, as fast as you can"?

(Don't even get me started on "carbon trading," a weird scam in which the buyer acquires an invisible commodity of no earthly use to him, and both buyer and seller can benefit if they overestimate the amount being "transferred.")

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John Stossel on the War on Drugs

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With economy in shambles, Congress gets a raise
By Jordy Yager

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

However, at 2.8 percent, the automatic raise that lawmakers receive is only half as large as the 2009 cost of living adjustment of Social Security recipients.

Still, Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Congress should have taken the rare step of freezing its pay, as lawmakers did in 2000.

“Look at the way the economy is and how most people aren’t counting on a holiday bonus or a pay raise — they’re just happy to have gainful employment,” said Ellis. “But you have the lawmakers who are set up and ready to get their next installment of a pay raise and go happily along their way.”

Member raises are often characterized as examples of wasteful spending, especially when many constituents and businesses in members’ districts are in financial despair.

Rep. Harry Mitchell, a first-term Democrat from Arizona, sponsored legislation earlier this year that would have prevented the automatic pay adjustments from kicking in for members next year. But the bill, which attracted 34 cosponsors, failed to make it out of committee.

“They don’t even go through the front door. They have it set up so that it’s wired so that you actually have to undo the pay raise rather than vote for a pay raise,” Ellis said.

Freezing congressional salaries is hardly a new idea on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers have floated similar proposals in every year dating back to 1995, and long before that. Though the concept of forgoing a raise has attracted some support from more senior members, it is most popular with freshman lawmakers, who are often most vulnerable.

In 2006, after the Republican-led Senate rejected an increase to the minimum wage, Democrats, who had just come to power in the House with a slew of freshmen, vowed to block their own pay raise until the wage increase was passed. The minimum wage was eventually increased and lawmakers received their automatic pay hike.

In the beginning days of 1789, Congress was paid only $6 a day, which would be about $75 daily by modern standards. But by 1965 members were receiving $30,000 a year, which is the modern equivalent of about $195,000.

Currently the average lawmaker makes $169,300 a year, with leadership making slightly more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes $217,400, while the minority and majority leaders in the House and Senate make $188,100.

Ellis said that while freezing the pay increase would be a step in the right direction, it would be better to have it set up so that members would have to take action, and vote, for a pay raise and deal with the consequences, rather than get one automatically.

“It is probably never going to be politically popular to raise Congress’s salary,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to find taxpayers saying, ‘Yeah I think I should pay my congressman more’.”

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Monday, December 22, 2008

What May Come of Ponzi Schemes?

by Karen Kwiatkowski

I may have lauded governmental omniscience too soon – just today I found out that almost a year ago, in the eighth year of his missile-throwing, shoe-blocking sway, Mr. Bush formed the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. He did this by signing his 251st unclassified executive order.

No doubt, the president and his financial advisors definitely need to hear from an advisory council on financial literacy. Establishing such a group in the eighth year of horrendous growth of the warfare-welfare state, in the eighth year of a federal lavishness that makes the dead czars of Russia look as careful as dear Tonya Zhivago in winter after the revolution – well, that’s just George being George, I guess.

The council doesn’t actually advise the President. It looks like Paulson’s cheer-squad, a Treasury chorus, or maybe a chorus line. I guess it’s really a top level U.S. government effort to help educate common folk on money matters. Now that’s just rich.

In 2008, the Washington Times reports that federal spending went up 25% before the more obvious credit and financial sector meltdown, before the two trillion dollars the Federal Reserve made available to recipients who shall remain a mystery, and before the $850 bailout bill and other known bailouts.

As I read the article, I got more and more confused, not being overly familiar with official government Ponzi schemes. I mean, I know they exist, of course. The Times also explains "The deficit in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, was $454.8 billion, up from $162.8 billion in fiscal 2007. The deficit itself is expected to be about $1 trillion in fiscal 2009."

There is also a bit on future debt and obligations, especially the one relating to all those military veterans and other retirees, and their health care. This future spike in the future costs in veterans benefits was "unforeseen." That’s a euphemism for the two words the warfare-welfare state usually uses to explain itself to the rest of us.

A warfare-welfare state is precious, you see, and it has a price. Your freedom today, and your children’s tomorrow.

The hell we must pay for the obscenity of federal spending, federal monetary policy, including the Federal Reserve’s very existence is coming due. As it does, we discover that one of the gatekeepers was an SEC that instead of promoting vigilant justice jousts with those "at the margins" in Jim Grant’s words a few days ago on Bloomberg, while treating the elephants to all the comfort and coziness of a long marriage.

There is an alternative ending to this story, and we have examples from other places – even our own history – to show us how it might work.

Shays Rebellion comes to mind, shortly after the war for independence from Britain. There’s an example of soldiers expecting pensions and respect, and instead getting their property taken by the government in lieu of back taxes.

Zimbabwe is a case in point. Mugabe runs a political machine that ensures friends of the government have rule of law on their side. Mugabe’s megalomania has brought the Zimbabwean inflation rate to 11 million percent. That’s pretty impressive, as worthlessness goes! (Don’t tell George, he still has a few weeks!) But the interesting thing is that life goes on, and the central bank of Zimbabwe was recently forced to allow alternative currencies in country. It had no choice. Much like our own Federal Reserve, it had become fundamentally irrelevant.

Albania had a bad time some years ago, when the people reacted to a government-backed Ponzi scheme – and the loss of all their money – with the Rebellion of 1997. This rebellion was sparked by a loss of $1.2 billion, a loss that averaged $400 per Albanian. For that, they went into the streets and overthrew their lousy government.

Our government today owes something like $37,000 per American – which means, we the people must ultimately pay the bill, or default on the promises, mostly to each other. When the government defaults – obviously the payers shouldn’t mind – but the receivers will. That group of receivers is as large as the group of payers, but the trendline is in the wrong direction. As the fiat economy tanks, more and more people become dependent on the government’s largesse, and fewer – whether at the Bernie Madoff level or just the little guy, are actually producing value.

The tipping point could be inflation, and it would appear that the Fed is doing its best to make that happen. How to handle it? Call the Zimbabweans, if you can find a number to the one in thirteen who have a cell phone.

Will the point of no return – or a welcome return to real liberty and truly emasculated government – be reached as Americans lose their personal portfolios, their retirement promises, and their homes? The Albanians were already poor – and poorly educated – courtesy of their own warfare-welfare state. Communism had just fallen, and their hopes were high – it’s the worst time to disappoint people, you know, after they have had a taste of future change. As the Bush gangsters recede in the imagination of the people who were heard in the last election – we should keep in mind the Albanian experience. Of course, Albania was just a small, impoverished, unproductive kleptocracy. We are much larger.

In a country with a 20th century tradition of war, of celebrating men in uniform who boldly go wherever their politicians tell them to go, the stars could be lining up for some kind of replay of Shays rebellion – economically struggling veterans, promises broken, take it out on the government scammers. We got a glimpse of how this could happen some years ago when an unhappy veteran stole a tank from a National Guard armory and drove it around San Diego. Apparently unhappy people also steal bulldozers, and with all the new infrastructure construction planned for the next installment of Keynesianism, who can say which vehicle funded by the state makes a better, er, statement, if you will.

What may come of government facilitated and supported Ponzi schemes? We know that they collapse when they are discovered. Or maybe, they collapse, and then they are discovered. But what matters is that they fail, and fail publicly. It’s happening now. What to do? I am not a certified financial planner, but the stock value of Mises Institute and other free market educational websites and institutes is rising rapidly.

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Kissinger Calls For New International System Out Of World Crises

Says global necessities should foster an “age of compatible interests”

Steve Watson
December 19, 2008

Bilderberg luminary Henry Kissinger has repeated his routine call for a new international political order, stating that global crises should be seen as an opportunity to move toward a borderless world where national interests are outweighed by global necessities.

Speaking with Charlie Rose earlier this week, Kissinger cited the chaos being wrought across the globe by the financial crisis and the spread of terrorism as an opportunity to bolster a new global order.

"I think that when the new administration assess the position in which it finds itself it will see a huge crisis and terrible problems, but I can see that it could see a glimmer in which it could construct an international system out of it." Kissinger said, referring to the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations.

The former National Security advisor and Secretary of State compared the current world climate to the period immediately following the second world war, which led to the creation and empowerment of global bodies such as the UN and NATO.

"If you look back to the end of the second world war, many people now think that the period between the end of 1945 and 1950 was in many ways the most creative period or one of the most creative periods of foreign policy, but it started with chaos and fear of Russian invasion of Europe and governments that were very weak." Kissinger stated.

"The new administration is really coming into office at a strange period in this sense," he continued. "It looks like a period of horrendous crisis all over the world. And we ourselves are in a severe crisis financially, but at the end of it our relative position in the world is actually stronger than it has been in the sense that Russia, China, India all have strong reasons to contribute to a quiet international environment because of the preoccupation they must have with their domestic affairs."

"They do not wish and have good reasons not to wish for an international atmosphere of crisis. So Paradoxically, this moment of crisis is also one of great opportunity." Kissinger commented.

Interviewer Charlie Rose, who has previously listened to Kissinger’s calls for a new world order, recognized the direction the conversation was taking and urged Kissinger to elaborate:

"When you talk about a new structure, I’m not sure, you’ve used the term new world order, what is it? Is it simply a world order that is defined by new interest and new mutuality of interest?" Rose asked.

"That’s certainly how you have to start. I know the view that you start by converting the whole world to our political philosophy. I don’t think that can be done in one or two terms of an administration. That is an historic process that has its own rhythm." Kissinger replied.

"There are so many elements in this world at the moment that can only be dealt with on a global basis, and that’s unique," Kissinger continued. "Proliferation, energy, environment, All of these issues necessitate a global approach, so you don’t have to invent an international order. So every country has to mitigate its pure national interests by the global necessities, or define it’s national interests by global necessities But it cannot push its own technically selfish interests only by throwing its own weight around." he stated.

Kissinger also related that he has been struck by how much the move toward a new global order has been enhanced by the recent crises.

"The jihadist crisis is bringing it home to everybody, that international affairs cannot be conducted entirely by drawing borders and defining international politics by who crosses what borders with organized military force." he said.

"This has now been reinforced by the financial crisis, which totally unexpectedly has spread around the world. It limits the resources that each country has for a foreign policy geared to an assertion of its own pure interests."

Kissinger claimed that the key players in international politics, India, China, Russia, America, Europe, should recognize they have parallel concerns and work together to forge what he termed an "age of compatible interests".

"I’m not saying that leaders will be up to all the opportunities that I may perceive but I think they can start moving in that direction and I’m actually fairly hopeful that we will be moving in that direction." Kissinger said.

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Ron Paul: Fear Based Bailouts Constitute Economic Terrorism

Congressman warns that auto-bailout could lead directly to fascism in America

Steve Watson
December 19, 2008

Texas Congressman Ron Paul has hit out at US monetary policy, warning that fear based politics are being used to promote the bailout culture in the same way they were used to sell the Iraq war.

"Governments that want to take over, undermine our liberties and gain more power always use the fear factor. They did this leading up to the war in Iraq, they do it on foreign policy, now they’re doing it on monetary, economic and financial problems." Paul told the nationally syndicated Alex Jones show Wednesday.

"They do that all the time, that is their technique, always to build a tremendous fear in the hearts of the people. Terrorize the people and say that ‘we are your saviors and we’re the only ones that can take care of it’." The Congressman stated.

Paul pointed out that the use of the fear factor was never more evident than in the run up to the passage of the $750 billion bailout bill earlier this year when it emerged that representatives had been threatened with an economic crash and physical martial law in America.

When asked if this constituted economic terrorism, Paul replied "Of course it is, and those responsible should be held accountable."

The Congressman also warned that the bailout of the auto industry could have dire consequences.

"It is extremely dangerous because although we have been creeping in that direction, this is an endorsement of nationalization. If they keep token ownership with the corporations, which they probably will, then it’s called fascism." Paul said.

"I think everybody knows we’re in a crisis now and they have now gotten to the point where they don’t trust the government, which is healthy." The Congressman told listeners.

"A lot of people are begging and pleading and they’re lining up. But the average guy outside of Washington, especially so many of the young people are realizing that this has all been a hoax and this is the time to really expose that hoax."

"We have a real opportunity to direct attention to the real culprit and that is those who control the monetary system. Those who counterfeit our money and cause the financial bubbles and then recessions, and now are working real hard on a depression." Paul continued.

"The only thing that can counteract this is a different philosophy. A convincing argument that free markets, sound money and no Federal Reserve and limited taxes, the things that made America great."

"The system that they are trying to patch together right now will not work. We don’t need more regulatory agencies, all we need is the enforcement of fraud laws." Paul concluded.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

UN agency says crisis needs global currency rules

All countries exposed to the economic crisis, including those with currencies declining in value, should adopt policies to stimulate domestic demand, a U.N. agency said on Thursday.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said multilateral coordination of exchange rate policies, similar to the way the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulates global trade, was needed to deal with the crisis.

Rather than "pro-cyclical" belt-tightening policies urged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on countries affected by the crisis, it was counter-cyclical policies to boost the economy in the face of the downturn that were needed, it said in a policy brief.

"The world seems not to have learned the lessons from previous financial crises: that traditional adjustment packages can be counterproductive, and that better global exchange rate arrangements will be critical if we are to achieve and maintain monetary and financial stability," UNCTAD said.

The comments in the brief, entitled "Will we never learn?", were directed more at developing countries seeking to defend exchange rates, as the United States and other rich countries were cutting interest rates and pumping money into the economy to stimulate demand and ward off recession and deflation.

UNCTAD said the main idea behind the creation of the IMF had been to avoid the destructive competitive devaluations that bedevilled the world economy in the 1930s.

A well-designed global system would balance the advantages of appreciation in one country with disadvantages in another, regulating currency rate changes as the WTO regulates tariffs.


A regime of this kind would require countries to specify the reasons for changes in their "real" -- inflation-adjusted or labour-cost adjusted -- exchange rates, and ensure that real rates remained more or less constant, it said.

UNCTAD said developing countries best placed to withstand the crisis had a high share of manufacturing in total trade, raised the share of domestic demand in growth and cut dependence on foreign capital by building up current account surpluses.

Those most exposed to the crisis combined high current account deficits with a build-up of private-sector foreign liabilities and were victims of the "carry trade" -- borrowing in low-yield currencies and investing in high-yield ones.

This led to overvaluation and loss of competitiveness, UNCTAD said, pointing to Brazil, Hungary, Iceland, Romania and Turkey among those that suffered a sharp depreciation in nominal and real exchange rates.

Although this made companies more competitive in the long run, it could hurt households and banks with damaging consequences for growth and employment -- aggravated as central banks sought to defend exchange rates by tightening policy in one of the most severe recessions of the past century, it said.

Traditional aid packages combined with belt-tightening were counter-productive, UNCTAD said. Countries that were exposed to carry trade speculation needed a real devaluation to restore competitiveness, while the combination of rising interest rates and falling government spending could reinvite speculation.

My Thoughts:
While some of this makes sense, this is coming from the same United Nations whose "peacekeepers" have failed to keep peace anywhere, whose "aid" packages have routinely benefitted drug and warlords rather than people, and whose climate change agenda refuses to note any real scientific evidence. So we're supposed to listen to them here?

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