Corruption, The American Way

So apparently an Ambassadorship costs $1.8 million per post in the US.

In virtually any other country, even where the situation with corruption is quite dismal, such arrangements would be seen as unquestionably corrupt. And yet the US scores an entirely respectable 73/100 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), leagues above say Italy which gets 42/100.

The reason I mention Italy is that I was once discussing the question of corruption in different countries with an Italian. He said that what in the US is known as “political lobbying” would be treated as a criminal activity in Italy, and indeed in most of the rest of Europe. Hence why in the Med countries you get far more cases of corruption in the form of cash in envelopes. In the US that’s against the law, but that’s not such a big deal, because the law – or rather the absence of it – allows for the same thing, just in indirect formats (expensive dinners, contributions, astronomic speaking fees, stock performances superior to those of corporate insiders, etc). But that kind of corruption is “deniable” and hence respectable, whereas the direct kind is crude and distasteful, a defining feature of disorganized Third World countries.

In Italy, regulations against corruption and weaselly dealings in general are stringent. Now because Italians tend to corruption in general, either by nature or nurture, this means that the high incidence of such endlessly knocks against their corruption ratings. In the US, however, the factual “legalization” of much of what passes for corruption in Europe allows it to remain relatively unscathed in such international assessments.

There are many other such examples. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is insanely corrupt if you think rulers siphoning off billions of dollars off the oil budget is fundamentally illegitimate (as is alleged but never evidenced for Russia’s “mafia state” and Putin’s Swiss bank accounts). But it’s all quite legal there, which is why – hard as it is to believe – Saudi Arabia scores higher than not only Russia, but even Italy in the CPI.

So the solution is simple. Just legalize your corruption, and move up to the top in both the World Bank’s Doing Business ratings and soon enough in the Corruption Perceptions Index. Don’t forget to be slavishly pro-American in your foreign policy. Investors will love you for it. Well, maybe not, at least once said investors get to know you a bit better, but at least you’ll get glowing reviews from the Wall Street Journal and Transparency International. That’s how you become a made country in Davos World.

The Tsarnaev Brothers

Make of this what you will.

(1) The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, never adjusted to life in the US. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he said. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had an understanding of US teen hood / SWPL culture. He was a 9/11 “truther.” That’s from the Twitter account. That said, he wasn’t too down with America either.

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I Don’t Care About Bradley Manning

No matter how you look at it, he is a traitor. He violated the UCMJ. Although he is free to make ethical arguments as to why he leaked Collateral Murder and the US Embassy cables, the US is fully within its rights to prosecute him.

I’m quite consistent about this: Treason is a punishable offense, no matter where and why it happens. I do not have an issue with the US executing the Rosenbergs or the USSR executing Western spies during the Cold War either. It’s part of the risk you take when you choose to sell out your country for a few shekels. This likewise applies when you do it not for money but for “idealistic” reasons.

I agree that in a perfect world, the fact of Manning (1) releasing it out of ethical, not monetary convictions and (2) giving the entire world access to it, as opposed to foreign hostile intelligence services – unlike, for instance, the Russian KGB traitor, Vasily Mitrokhin – should be a mitigating factor. However, as a sovereign nation, the US has no obligation to take that or international left/liberal opinion into account.

The Assange case is completely different. Here the US is trying to extend its jurisdiction to the entire world, so that an Australian citizen can now be found guilty of “espionage” against the US even if he’d never stepped foot inside it. This is called imperialism, and we are opposed to it. What’s more, the methods used to do it are particularly nauseating and underhanded. The probable plan is to extradite Assange to Sweden, from whence he can be quietly renditioned to the US. All based on incredible and patently false rape accusations, questioning which is going to get you blacklisted and smeared by legions of Guardianistas, PC brigades, concern trolls, and sundry useful idiots of imperialism. It would be infinitely more respectable for the US to just whack him.

That is why I support Assange to the hilt, but don’t care for Manning. It’s a very logical and consistent position, I think, but many don’t see it that way. They view it as anti-American, misogynist, and reactionary. I think it is pro-American, anti-imperialist, and pro-rule of law.

UC Berkeley Is Liberal LOL

From the rhetoric, you’d think the People’s Republic of Berkeley was a sickle short of Communism.

In reality however the university itself is fairly standard, probably no more radical than any other in the US. I sat in on a political economy class today (full of PE majors who are in general quite leftist) and the professor took a poll. 39% (!) said the banksters deserved a bailout. A stunning 82% would have bailed them out (though granted, not doing so is more of a libertarian – or far left – position than anything else). However, only 12% said that the banksters should have been given bonuses. The feeling against banker bonuses however is so near universal that I don’t think this is much out of the ordinary. (On this point, I have to disagree – the banksters DO deserve their bonuses. If politicians are going to bail you out, with no popular opposition to boot, it is not only justifiable but a moral obligation to take any bonuses you are offered and give the finger to those suckers!).

Also, in response to another question about the nature of the “state of nature”, 7% said man is inherently good and cooperative; 47% the former, but that society corrupts him; and 47% said he was selfish and competitive. Berkeley students are therefore surprisingly realistic. Even a cursory reading of non-politicized anthropology will reveal that – with a few exceptions – primitive societies are extremely violent, competitive, and hierarchical.

And those respondents were for the most part social science people. Engineers and techies at Cal are considerably further to the right. More general freshman opinion polls show that Berkeley students aren’t all that much more radical than the average American population (e.g. opinion on the death penalty is split 50/50). Actually just considering that Berkeley is associated with the likes of John Yoo (the pro-torture lawyer) or Arthur Jensen (the HBD’er) should prove it is no seething, uniformly liberal hotbed. A year ago, the College Republicans organized a “Diversity Bake Sale” in which discounts were given to Hispanics, blacks, and women to protest affirmative action; a liberal attempt to get the university to ban it failed.

The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.

Why Obama Will Sooner Win

Ten months ago I bet a symbolic $10 on a Republican win. According to elections models and the bookies, it’s more likely than not that I’ve lost it.

Not that I’m saddened by this development of course. (That said, if the economy slumps sharply in Q3, then a Romney win becomes entirely possible).

I’m Now A Libertarian :(

At least in the context of the US Presidential elections according to this nifty quiz. Here are my detailed results for perusal for anyone interested.

PS. Mitt Romney’s VP pick was a good one. Paulites however are (rightly) not convinced and I for one still favor Obama if with no particular enthusiasm.

PPS. The real Obama-Romney difference is much greater for me than 7 percentage points because of Romney’s extremely hostile attitude to Russia. What can I say? This issue is rather important to me.