Saturday, June 23, 2018

"The Latest Casualty In The Global Pension Catastrophe Is…"

"The Latest Casualty In The Global Pension Catastrophe Is…"
by Simon Black

"In the year 6 AD, the Roman emperor Augustus set up a special trust fund known as the aerarium militare, or military treasury, to fund retirement pensions for Rome’s legionnaires. Now, these military pensions had already existed for several centuries in Rome. But the money to pay them had always been mixed together in the government’s general treasury. So for hundreds of years, mischievous senators could easily grab money that was earmarked for military pensions and redirect it elsewhere.

Augustus wanted to end this practice by setting up a special fund specifically for military pensions. And to make sure there would be no meddling from any government officials, Augustus established a Board of Trustees, consisting of former military commanders, to oversee the fund’s operations. Augustus really wanted this pension fund to last for the ages. And to keep a steady inflow of revenue, he established a 5% inheritance tax in Rome that would go directly to the aerarium militare. He even capitalized the fund with 170,000,000 sesterces of his own money, worth about half a billion dollars in today’s money.

But as you can probably already guess, the money didn’t last. Few subsequent governments and emperors ever bothered themselves with balancing the fund’s long-term fiscal health. And several found creative ways to plunder it for their own purposes. Within a few centuries, the fund was gone.

This is a common theme throughout history… and still today: pension funds are almost invariably mismanaged to the point of catastrophe. We’ve written about this topic frequently in the past. It’s one of the biggest financial catastrophes of our time. Congress has even formed a committee that’s preparing for massive pension failures.

And here’s another, very recent example: the city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is deep in the red with its police pension fund. According to the Pennsylvania state auditor, the pension was 65.7% funded in 2011, i.e. the fund had enough assets to pay about two-thirds of its long-term obligations. Now, that alone should have been enough to sound the alarm bells.

But by 2013, two years later, the fund’s solvency rate had dropped to 49.7%. And by 2015, it was just 38.5%. Incredible. 38.5%. At that level, there’s simply no chance the city will ever be able to meet its obligations to retired police officers.

A few years ago, city politicians took notice of this enormous funding gap and tried to take some small steps to patch it up. Specifically, the city proposed excluding an officer’s overtime in the calculation of his/her pension benefit. It was a small change and certainly wouldn’t solve the bigger problem. But it would at least buy the fund a few more years of solvency.

So naturally the union sued. And earlier this month a Pennsylvania court ruled against the city, i.e. Wilkes-Barre must continue calculating pension benefits the old way. This helps no one; it only accelerates the demise of an already insolvent pension.

Oh, and it’s not just their police pension either. Wilkes-Barre’s pension for firefighters is hardly better off, just 46.1% funded. Unfortunately, these pension problems aren’t unique to Wilkes-Barre. City and state pension funds across the country… and the world… are in similar, dire straits.

The city of San Diego has a $6.25 billion shortfall on obligations promised to current and retired employees. The State of New Jersey has $90 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. And of course, Social Security has unfunded liabilities totaling tens of trillions of dollars.

The situation isn’t any different in Europe. Spain’s Social Security Reserve Fund has been heavily invested in Spanish government bonds for several years– bonds that had an average yield of NEGATIVE 0.19%. You read that correctly. Unsurprisingly, Spain’s pension fund is almost fully depleted.

The United Kingdom has trillions of pounds worth of unfunded public pensions. Even conservative Switzerland has a public pension that’s only 69% funded – a seemingly fantastic number by today’s dismal standards. Last year, the Swiss government proposed a plan to save its pensions, asking to increase the retirement age for women by one year (from 64 to 65, the same as men), and increase VAT by 0.3%. But the plan was rejected by Swiss voters in a national referendum– the third time in 20 years that pension reform failed to pass.

And that’s really the key issue here: pension plans are almost universally toast. Most of the time, politicians just ignore the problem and try to kick the can down the road to the next administration. But occasionally they try to do something to help. Yet whenever they do… voters reject the plan. Or the union sues. Or something else happens that prevents much-needed reforms from passing.

This merely accelerates the inevitable: these pensions are going bust. I’m not trying to be sensational– these are mathematical realities echoed by the officials who oversee these funds. For Wilkes-Barre’s police pension, it’s the Pennsylvania State Auditor who says the program is only 38.5% funded.

With Social Security, it’s the United States Secretary of the Treasury who says the program’s trust funds will soon be depleted. Social Security even provides a date, like the expiration on a carton of milk, after which Social Security will go bad.

These warnings are all publicly available information, not some wild conspiracy theory. And that’s really what they are: warnings. At this point, continuing to believe that these pensions will be solvent forever is completely ludicrous. The only rational option is to take matters into your own hands. For example:

– Start saving more. You’d be shocked at what an enormous difference it can make to save an extra $1,000 per year when compounded over several decades.

– Learn to be a better investor. Averaging an additional 1% annual return for your retirement savings can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of 20-30 years.

– Consider a more robust retirement structure like a Solo 401(k) or self-directed SEP IRA that allows you a greater breadth of investment options– everything from real estate to crypto to private equity.

– And it may even be possible to stash $50,000+ per year in self-employment “side” income, (selling products on Amazon, driving for Uber, etc.) into that retirement account.

The signs are clear… anyone depending on social security or a pension for their retirement is in trouble. It’s time to take this issue into your own hands."

Friday, June 22, 2018

Musical Interlude: Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

"Two Trillion Galaxies, at the Very Least”

Click image for larger size.
"Two Trillion Galaxies, at the Very Least”
by Henry Fountain

The scale of the universe, already unfathomable, just became even more so: There are about 10 times as many galaxies as previously thought. The new number, two trillion galaxies, is the result of work led by Christopher J. Conselice, an astrophysicist at the University of Nottingham in England, published in October in "The Astrophysical Journal."

The team analyzed sky surveys by the Hubble Space Telescope and other instruments able to see far away, and therefore far back, through about 13 billion years of time. The astronomers formed three-dimensional models to measure the number of galaxies at different times. Because not even the Hubble or large Earth-based telescopes can see the oldest, faintest galaxies, they also did some mathematical work to come up with two trillion. “It’s much bigger than anyone would have guessed,” Dr. Conselice said. “And the real number could be even higher.”

Previous estimates were that there were perhaps 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. One might well ask- what difference does it make? Or put another way, once you get past a couple of hundred billion galaxies, who’s counting? But the finding has important implications for understanding how the universe has evolved.

The researchers found that most of the oldest galaxies were low in mass, similar to some of the small “satellite” galaxies near our own Milky Way, and that there were about 10 times fewer low-mass galaxies today. That suggests that over billions of years, galaxies have been colliding and joining together. The study also suggests how important the more powerful James Webb Space Telescope, set to be launched in 2018, will be. “It will be able to study these galaxies that we’re just barely detecting- these lower-mass galaxies that are really the first galaxies of the universe,” Dr. Conselice said.”
2 trillion galaxies, in an ever-expanding Universe spanning 92 billion light years across...
Puts things in proper perspective I believe. How small we are, how insignificant. And yet...
"In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three billion Earth-type planets.
And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this.
And in all that, and perhaps more... only one of each of us."
- "Dr. Leonard McCoy,"
 "Star Trek," "Balance of Terror”

And we can still dream...

"A Look to the Heavens"

“How many arches can you count in the below image? If you count both spans of the Double Arch in the Arches National Park in Utah, USA, then two. But since the below image was taken during a clear dark night, it caught a photogenic third arch far in the distance - that of the overreaching Milky Way Galaxy. 
 Click image for larger size.
Because we are situated in the midst of the spiral Milky Way Galaxy, the band of the central disk appears all around us. The sandstone arches of the Double Arch were formed from the erosion of falling water. The larger arch rises over 30 meters above the surrounding salt bed and spans close to 50 meters across. The dark silhouettes across the image bottom are sandstone monoliths left over from silt-filled crevices in an evaporated 300 million year old salty sea. A dim flow created by light pollution from Moab, Utah can also be seen in the distance.’

"Today Is Mine..."


“Today is mine. It is unique.
Nobody in the world has one exactly like it.
It holds the sum of all my past experiences and all my future potential.
I can fill it with joyous moments or ruin it with fruitless worry.
If painful recollections of the past come into my mind, 
or frightening thoughts of the future, I can put them away.
They cannot spoil today for me.”

- Alcoholics Anonymous

The Poet: Robert Bly, "Things to Think"

"Things to Think"

"Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it's been decided that if you lie down no one will die."

- Robert Bly, “Morning Poems”

“25 Life Lessons By An Old Greek Shepherd”

“25 Life Lessons By An Old Greek Shepherd”
 by George Giotis, Greece by Greeks

“The road to the destination is never straight. To reach out to the winter shelter someone must take a lot of turns, travel along rough roads, suffer losses. You have to make sure that you always take food supplies with you.

Leave the past behind. If a wolf eats your goat, you can't do anything about it. Just make sure that next time you will be more careful.

Don't live just for saving money and don't be stingy. Don't postpone the tasting of joy for future times. Do it now, while you are still young. Make your hard work worth even more.

Struggle, fight. You are the only one in charge of yourself. Don't be truant, don't expect your dogs to do all the work in herding the sheep.

Ask for the respect you deserve, don't let others use you as a doormat. Set limits, put up fences, protect your animals.

Blessed are the ones who make mistakes. Make mistakes. These are life lessons, we call these experience. Don't forget who you were until yesterday. Start today and define with your actions who you are going to be from now on. Learn to forgive, starting with yourself. Don't feel guilty, you have no time for that.

Blessed are those who doubt. Don't let your life be ruled by dogmas. Remember that if some people hadn't doubted previous knowledge, mankind would have still lived in caves. Examine the information, be skeptical, think critically, think rationally, revise. You haven't seen any fairies and ghosts in the forest, just wolves.
Be careful. Observe others. Look them in the eyes. Like a Greek saying, "If it is not shown in the goat, it is shown by the horn ."

Life is a journey, not a destination. And it is valuable. The previous word you read already belongs to the past.

Don't advise the young constantly, it's a waste of time. There is no right way to teach them pain or misery, solely experience will do that.

Go travel! Trips are experiences that stay with us forever. Get out, try, taste, savor images greedily. Let your senses free. Expose yourself, let it go, crumble, lose your self-control from time to time. Not just your self-control, but stop controlling others too.

You have been isolated enough in your winter shelter, get out. Go find your friends and companionship.

Do not try to control others. You condemn in anxiety and suffering not only yourself, but also those who you try to control. Let others live, and live for yourself. Leave the other flocks to their shepherds, take care of yours. 

Life is not fair. The universe does not owe you any solace, and it is certain that at the end of the road you die. Hurry up.

You can be a winner. Learn from those around you. Become a child with children, play with them, but also go to the cafe and talk to the elderly. You can learn from their accumulated experience.

Do not take everything into account. Do not take everything seriously. You are probably overreacting today. What bothers you or you are afraid of now, most likely tomorrow will seem lukewarm or insipid. Try to see yourself from a distance, take a look at the sight of your flock from the hill.

Have patience. The goats do not give birth every month. But when that happens you need to be there because they need you.

Quarrel with your partner if necessary, it is not terrible, let the feelings be defused.Make decompression in anger. The fire is sometimes beneficial. If an area of kermes oak get burnt, spring will give again vegetation, fine food for goats and their young. Careful though, the words you say you can't take them back. Watch what your goats eat, they don't know how to pick. If they eat the shoots of trees, the forest cannot be created again, the place will be left bare fallow.
  
Be balanced. Enjoy the food and your drink. Do not forget that the world's poor walk miles for their daily food while the rich walk miles to digest it.

There is no perfect time, the circumstances and conditions will never be ideal. Start from where you are now! Do not postpone.

Be polite. A smiling face reflects similar behavior. Make gifts. Even the gift of a good word is important. Behave well to the elderly, you will soon be like them. Behave well to animals, they are not mean or envious, they have no obsessions or selfishness. They forgive without limit.

If you know how to read, read a lot! Those who read live extra lives. Not only their own but also all of those who you have read about.

Be bold. The fear keeps you tied but it is not real, it just comes from the unknown which is not in your head.

Do not get attached to things. Life is like the path of the pastures and the shepherd's bag. The more you fill it, the harder you will walk. Take only the necessary things with you. The flock keeps walking, it will not wait for you if you can't move because of too many heavy things. Let them go, release them, feel more flexible and free.”
- http://greece-by-greeks.com/25-greek-shepherd/
Translated by Eleni Vafeiadou

The Daily "Near You?"

Munich, Bayern, Germany. Thanks for stopping by!

"Conspiracy Theorists"

"Conspiracy Theorists"
In 1967, the CIA Created the Label "Conspiracy Theorists", 
And Ways to Attack Anyone Who Challenges the "Official" Narrative
By George Washington

"Conspiracy Theorists USED TO Be Accepted As Normal: Democracy and free market capitalism were founded on conspiracy theories. The Magna Carta, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and other  founding Western documents were based on conspiracy theories. Greek democracy and free market capitalism were also based on conspiracy theories. But those were the bad old days…Things have now changed.

That all changed in the 1960s. Specifically, in April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” and recommended methods for discrediting such theories.  The dispatch was marked “psych” –  short for “psychological operations” or disinformation –  and “CS” for the CIA’s “Clandestine Services” unit. The dispatch was produced in responses to a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times in 1976. The dispatch states:

"2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the [conspiracy] question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active addresses are requested:
a. To discuss the publicity problem with and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors) , pointing out that the [official investigation of the relevant event] made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.
b. To employ propaganda assets to and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.

4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:
a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider.
b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent–and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) …
c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc.
d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other. 
f. As to charges that the Commission’s report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.
g. Such vague accusations as that “more than ten people have died mysteriously” can always be explained in some natural way ….

5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission’s Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics."

Summarizing the tactics which the CIA dispatch recommended:

• Claim that it would be impossible for so many people would keep quiet about such a big conspiracy.
• Have people friendly to the CIA attack the claims, and point back to “official” reports.
• Claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.
• Claim that this is all old news, as “no significant new evidence has emerged”.
• Ignore conspiracy claims unless discussion about them is already too active.
• Claim that it’s irresponsible to speculate.
• Accuse theorists of being wedded to and infatuated with their theories.
• Accuse theorists of being politically motivated.
• Accuse theorists of having financial interests in promoting conspiracy theories.

In other words, the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable in the 1960s as part of its psychological warfare operations.

But Aren’t Conspiracy Theories– In Fact– Nuts? Forget Western history and CIA dispatches… aren’t conspiracy theorists nutty? In fact, conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be disproven or proven based on the specific evidence: Federal and all 50 state’s codes include specific statutes addressing conspiracy, and providing the punishment for people who commit conspiracies.

But let’s examine what the people trained to weigh evidence and reach conclusions think about “conspiracies”. Let’s look at what American judges think. Searching Westlaw, one of the 2 primary legal research networks which attorneys and judges use to research the law, I searched for court decisions including the word “Conspiracy”. This is such a common term in lawsuits that it overwhelmed Westlaw. Specifically, I got the following message: “Your query has been intercepted because it may retrieve a large number of documents.” From experience, I know that this means that there were potentially millions or many hundreds of thousands of cases which use the term. There were so many cases, that Westlaw could not even start processing the request.

So I searched again, using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy”. I hoped that this would not only narrow my search sufficiently that Westlaw could handle it, but would give me cases where the judge actually found the defendant guilty of a conspiracy. This pulled up exactly 10,000 cases — which is the maximum number of results which Westlaw can give at one time. In other words, there were more than 10,000 cases using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy” (maybe there’s a way to change my settings to get more than 10,000 results, but I haven’t found it yet).

Moreover, as any attorney can confirm, usually only appeal court decisions are published in the Westlaw database. In other words, trial court decisions are rarely published; the only decisions normally published are those of the courts which hear appeals of the trial. Because only a very small fraction of the cases which go to trial are appealed, this logically means that the number of guilty verdicts in conspiracy cases at trial must be much, much larger than 10,000.

Moreover, “Guilty of Conspiracy” is only one of many possible search phrases to use to find cases where the defendant was found guilty of a lawsuit for conspiracy. Searching on Google, I got 3,170,000 results (as of yesterday) under the term “Guilty of Conspiracy”, 669,000 results for the search term “Convictions for Conspiracy”, and 743,000 results for “Convicted for Conspiracy”. Of course, many types of conspiracies are called other things altogether. For example, a long-accepted legal doctrine makes it illegal for two or more companies to conspire to fix prices, which is called “Price Fixing” (1,180,000 results).

Given the above, I would extrapolate that there have been hundreds of thousands of convictions for criminal or civil conspiracy in the United States. Finally, many crimes go unreported or unsolved, and the perpetrators are never caught. Therefore, the actual number of conspiracies committed in the U.S. must be even higher. In other words, conspiracies are committed all the time in the U.S., and many of the conspirators are caught and found guilty by American courts. Remember, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was a conspiracy theory.

Indeed, conspiracy is a very well-recognized crime in American law, taught to every first-year law school student as part of their basic curriculum. Telling a judge that someone has a “conspiracy theory” would be like telling him that someone is claiming that he trespassed on their property, or committed assault, or stole his car. It is a fundamental legal concept.

Obviously, many conspiracy allegations are false (if you see a judge at a dinner party, ask him to tell you some of the crazy conspiracy allegations which were made in his court). Obviously, people will either win or lose in court depending on whether or not they can prove their claim with the available evidence. But not all allegations of trespass, assault, or theft are true, either. Proving a claim of conspiracy is no different from proving any other legal claim, and the mere label “conspiracy” is taken no less seriously by judges.

It’s wasn't only Madoff. The heads of Enron were found guilty of conspiracy, as was the head of Adelphia. Numerous lower-level government officials have been found guilty of conspiracy. Time Magazine’s financial columnist Justin Fox wrote: "Some financial market conspiracies are real. Most good investigative reporters are conspiracy theorists, by the way." See thisthisthisthis and this.

And what about the NSA and the tech companies that have cooperated with them?

But Our Leaders Wouldn’t Do That: While people might admit that corporate executives and low-level government officials might have engaged in conspiracies – they may be strongly opposed to considering that the wealthiest or most powerful might possibly have done so. But powerful insiders have long admitted to conspiracies. For example, Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote: "Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of “mind control.” Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials..."

But Someone Would Have Spilled the Beans: A common defense to people trying sidetrack investigations into potential conspiracies is to say that “someone would have spilled the beans” if there were really a conspiracy. But famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg explains: "It is a commonplace that “you can’t keep secrets in Washington” or “in a democracy, no matter how sensitive the secret, you’re likely to read it the next day in the New York Times.” These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well. Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn’t in a fully totalitarian society. But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy. The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders."

History proves Ellsberg right. For example: One hundred and thirty thousand (130,000) people from the U.S., UK and Canada worked on the Manhattan Project. But it was kept secret for years.
A BBC documentary shows that: "There was a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, BirdsEye, Goodtea, Maxwell House; George Bush's Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Moreover, the tycoons told General Butler the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers. Have you ever heard of this conspiracy before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?
• 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980's during the Latin American Crisis, and the government 's response was to cover up their insolvency. That's a cover up lasting several decades. Banks have been involved in systematic criminal behavior, and have manipulated every single market. 
• Governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear industry. Governments have colluded to cover up the severity of numerous other environmental accidents. For many years, Texas officials intentionally under-reported the amount of radiation in drinking water to avoid having to report violations.
• The government's spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here. And see this.) But the public didn t learn about it until many years later. Indeed, the the New York Times delayed the story so that it would not affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
• The decision to launch the Iraq war was made before 9/11. Indeed, former CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted deceptions in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O Neill, who sat on the National Security Council, also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change one month after Bush took office. Dick Cheney apparently even made Iraq's oil fields a national security priority before 9/11. And it has now been shown that a handful of people were responsible for willfully ignoring the evidence that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. These facts have only been publicly disclosed recently. Indeed, Tom Brokaw said, "All wars are based on propaganda."  A concerted effort to produce propaganda is a conspiracy.
Moreover, high-level government officials and insiders have admitted to dramatic conspiracies after the fact, including:


The admissions did not occur until many decades after the events.

These examples show that it is possible to keep conspiracies secret for a long time, without anyone “spilling the beans”. In addition, to anyone who knows how covert military operations work, it is obvious that segmentation on a “need-to-know basis”, along with deference to command hierarchy, means that a couple of top dogs can call the shots and most people helping won’t even know the big picture at the time they are participating.

Moreover, those who think that co-conspirators will brag about their deeds forget that people in the military or intelligence or who have huge sums of money on the line can be very disciplined. They are not likely to go to the bar and spill the beans like a down-on-their-luck, second-rate alcoholic robber might do. Finally, people who carry out covert operations may do so for ideological reasons - believing that the “ends justify the means”. Never underestimate the conviction of an ideologue.

Conclusion: The bottom line is that some conspiracy claims are nutty and some are true. Each has to be judged on its own facts. Humans have a tendency to try to explain random events through seeing patterns… that’s how our brains our wired. Therefore, we have to test our theories of connection and causality against the cold, hard facts.

On the other hand, the old saying by Lord Acton is true: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." Those who operate without checks and balances – and without the disinfectant sunlight of public scrutiny and accountability – tend to act in their own best interests … and the little guy gets hurt.

The early Greeks knew it, as did those who forced the king to sign the Magna Carta, the Founding Fathers and the father of modern economics. We should remember this important tradition of Western civilization.

Postscript: The ridicule of all conspiracy theories is really just an attempt to diffuse criticism of the powerful. The wealthy are not worse than other people, but they are not necessarily better either. Powerful leaders may not be bad people, or they could be sociopaths. We must judge each by his or her actions, and not by preconceived stereotypes that they are all saints acting in our best interest or all scheming criminals."
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