Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Patriotic Duty

Several months ago(**) I got called down for my draft physical — that's what happens when you get kicked out of college.

All of us got parceled into 6 or 7 groups, each of which was injected into the process at different points.  As luck would have it, I got injected into 'eye test'.  The nice doctor gave me the test then told me  "Gee, kid, it's too bad you have to go through the whole magilla, but that's how it works.  Your good eye is 20/600 and your bad eye is 20/800.  You're going to be 4-F.  Now go get checked for hernias."

I have to admit a tinge of disappointment.  At the time I considered 'Vietnam' to be 'the good fight' and I was going to be denied any part beyond cheering my friends on.  I stayed home and voted Republican.

In the ensuing years, my opinions have changed some.  As I examine the stuff at Walmart marked "Made in Vietnam", I wonder what those 58,000 deaths were all about, and I have come to some disturbing conclusions.  It wasn't about saving South Vietnam from the Communists, because today we buy the products of those same Communists without a single thought for those 58,000 dead Americans, and they sell to us without a single thought for the millions of dead Vietnamese.  It turns out that Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary were right all along.  Maybe Jane Fonda was, too.

I have watched as one President after another has marched us into one hellhole after another, always to the ruffle of drums and the blare of trumpets, with patriotic songs playing in the background.  Our brave fighting men (and women) have to have the newest toys, so our military budget is now seven times larger than China's.  It was seven times larger than the USSR's, but they went broke first.  We invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to root out the malevolent forces behind 9-11 even though there is little or no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with it.  But they had oil — oil and weapons of mass destruction!  Or, as Mark Russell pointed out:  We KNOW they have WMDs!  We have the receipts!

We bombed Libya and overthrew Qaddafi because — well... because Qaddafi!  Besides, he was oppressing women.  Oddly, we haven't done much for the status of women in Saudi Arabia.

The latest campaign, a continuing response to the events of 9-11-01, no doubt, is called 'ISIS' or 'ISIL' — it changes daily — and it's clearly our responsibility to fix this even though countries geographically much closer to the action don't seem to consider ISIS 'a problem' in the sense that you and I understand the concept.  Because of all the turmoil in the Middle East, millions of people are fleeing to safer countries.  Among the millions of ordinary refugees are scattered a handful of real terrorists, and it's near-impossible to distinguish them.

We manufacture our own problems with our foreign policy, and them solve those problems with our military, except that 'solve' isn't the right verb.  'Transform' is closer to the truth: we change the shape of the problem without ever addressing the root cause, and next year we will do it again.

And again.

And again.

Anyone who has the gall to point out that our military is treated like Kleenex — like a disposable commodity — is automatically anathema, anti-American (as if sending men to die for corporate profit is an American virtue) and unpatriotic.  Whether it's Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of dozens of others, we must always support the troops, the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us free.  It is absolutely forbidden to ask what possible threat to our freedom is provided by a third-world country whose military capability wouldn't have caused Charlemagne a moment's worry.  It doesn't matter;  we just have to support the troops, got it?

I'm tired of seeing kids who signed up thinking they were doing 'their patriotic duty' and then got sent off on a mission to ensure Exxon-Mobil or Halliburton or Kellogg-Brown&Root doesn't take a hit on their bottom line.  I'm tired of seeing commercials for Wounded Warriors who shouldn't ever have been where they could get wounded.  I want my Department of Defense to concentrate on defense, not on invading countries that (a) haven't ever threatened us and (b) couldn't attack us even if they wanted to.

I know I'm not the only person who sees this, but I'm one of the few who speak of it.  As long as I remain a voice crying in the wilderness, nothing will change.  Speak up, dammit!  It's your patriotic duty.

 

 

 

  (**): 635 or thereabouts.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Coming Crash

Government (at all levels: Federal, State, County, City, School district, etc.) now takes 47% of GDP, and people are starting to notice that it takes 2 incomes to live.  As American labor becomes more expensive, more jobs are driven overseas — and times get tougher.  Eventually we will have too few Americans employed and paying taxes to support the lavish government programs which have become a fixture of modern life.

We are in a destructive feedback loop in which taxes and regulations impel salaries upward and rising salaries impel outsourcing.  How did the world's most productive economy get to this point?  As the unemployment rate rises, salaries and wages should fall to compensate, but they don't.  At the very bottom of the scale, wages are forbidden by law from being adjusted downward.  This 'loss to friction' means the economy cannot completely adapt to changing conditions.  And we will soon understand that it is beyond the power of the Federal government to change that.  Nevertheless, we have politicians promising to raise the minimum wage, and thousands of potential voters cheer them on as they promise to make a bad situation worse.

With government costing us 47% of everything we earn it's as if each one of us has a whole second person to support with our labor.  No wonder stay-at-home-Moms are a thing of the past.  Our standard of living is incredibly high, no doubt about that, but that's a normal progression.  Marian the Librarian lived much higher on the hog than did Hypatia of Alexandria but their taxes weren't noticeably different;  our high standard of living is not due to careful stewardship by the government's minions.  We should expect the SOL to rise if the government does nothing but fend off the barbarians.  Unfortunately, we should also expect that (pretty soon) our SOL is going to fall enough that we'll all be SOL.  Here's what's going to happen:

  1. As unemployment rises more people will find themselves dependent on the dole;
  2. the welfare system will become over-stressed; benefits will be scaled back; taxes will rise;
  3. regardless, the number of tax-producers will decrease as the number of tax-consumers increases;
  4. at some point the system will implode.  Either a depression will happen, or the currency will be inflated a la Germany at the end of WW-I, which is actually the same thing.  A military dictatorship may stave off the end for a while, but collapse is inevitable.

There are precious few things we can do to prevent this.  Prime among them is to reduce the size and cost of government, and thus reduce the tax/regulation burden on the producers.  Of almost equal importance is to granulate the effect of charity;  this can only be accomplished by removing it from the control of the 14th Amendment — equal protection — which presently operates to impede welfare agencies from culling able-bodied slackers.  In practice, that means returning the function — all of it — to the private sector where the 14th Amendment is not operative.

Most certainly, we will no longer be able to afford an Armed Forces three times larger than necessary to defend the United States.  Troops pulled back from the 150-or-so countries where they are presently deployed will be spilled into a labor pool already filled to overflowing.

Large numbers of people will go hungry for the first time in our history.  Alexander Tytler laid out the game-plan two hundred years ago:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.

"The average age of the world's great civilizations have been two hundred years.  These nations have progressed through the following sequence:

  • from bondage to spiritual faith,
  • from spiritual faith to great courage,
  • from courage to liberty,
  • from liberty to abundance,
  • from abundance to selfishness,
  • from selfishness to complacency,
  • from complacency to apathy,
  • from apathy to dependency,
  • from dependency back to bondage."

I believe we have arrived, at last, at Tytler's last stage.  Only a very great deal of luck (and the passage of time) will restore us to liberty.  Along the way we will have to give up the notion that democracy is an unalloyed good to be instituted here at home and spread abroad, by war if necessary.

Now would be a good time for that.

As in Atlas Shrugged, the motor of the world is about to stop.  We haven’t been oiling the things that make it go;  we’ve skimped on its maintenance.  Some would say we’ve actually tossed sand into the gears.  At the bottom line, those who make the world ‘go’ are wearing out, and when they’re gone, we’re all gone.

The US Dollar is now trading at nearly two-to-one against the Pound Sterling, a ratio that has not been seen since 1992, but the British Pound is not a special case.  The Dollar is trading soft against almost every major currency.  It’s not that they’re doing so well, as that we are doing so poorly.  At some point, OPEC is going to abandon the Dollar for something more stable...  the Euro, perhaps.  Countries that hold large stores of Dollars and use them to buy oil will, at that moment, lose the last reason they have for taking a position in Dollars;  they will shed their Dollar reserves, and the US economy will tank overnight.  It will be ‘1929’ all over again.  Brother, can you spare a dime?

When we recover...  if we recover...  we will have to construct a system which will not be subject to the excesses and abuses to which the current system is heir.  Tytler’s prediction gives us a roadmap back.

To avoid the trap in which tax-consumers vote themselves largesse, we will have to restrict the franchise to tax-producers.  Public school teachers (if there be such) will not vote, but private school teachers will;  policemen, firemen, mayors, aldermen, and county clerks (and their staffs) will not vote;  Congressmen will not vote, nor will FBI agents or food inspectors.  The kid who makes your sub at Quizno’s will vote, but the clerk who issued his driver’s license won’t;  airline pilots will vote, but the air traffic controllers who guide them in won’t.  W-2s (or what passes for them in any system-to-come) will show income in two classes:  tax-derived and non-tax-derived.  If the Tax Due is more than the total of tax-derived income, you’ll be issued a permit-to-vote;  if not, not.  The incentive to get a productive job will be enormous;  the incentives to get a ‘cushy government job’ will evaporate before our eyes.  As a result, government service will attract only those who get fulfillment from such activities.  We should expect very few people to make a career of it.  We will return to the Founders’ vision of the townsman who is drafted by his peers and sent, possibly against his will and better judgement, off to Washington where he will serve one term or two and then return to his original occupation.  Political campaigns will be long, expensive, and brutal only when deep-seated philosophical divisions rear their ugly heads;  we should expect very little of that.

I’m trying hard to see a ‘down side’ to all this.  There must be one, but I can't seem to find it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Friends, Liberals. Gungrabbers...

It will come as a shock to some of my readers, but I promise that it is true: among my friends, I count several liberals (in the modern sense) and several of what are commonly referred to as "gun grabbers", anti-second-amendment types.  As you might suspect, there is considerable overlap between those two categories.

Recently, I crossed swords wth one of them (both categories, naturally) over the issue of 'how easy it is to buy a gun over the Internet'.  Many of you will already be chuckling at such naïveté, but what a golden opportunity to increase others' level of awareness.  I am unable to resist.

Eloise is in the business of selling guns.  She has a store in Palatka, Florida.  She also appears at several local gun shows and she has a website on which she advertises guns for sale.  When someone buys a gun at her Palatka store, Eloise must (by federal law) have that person fill out an ATF Form 4473 and pass a background check.  When someone buys a gun from Eloise at a gun show, Eloise must (by federal law) have that person fill out an ATF Form 4473 and pass a background check.  When someone buys a gun from Eloise over the Internet, Eloise must (by federal law) have that person fill out an ATF Form 4473 and pass a background check.  As a matter of fact, there is no circumstance under which Eloise, a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) will not have a buyer fill out an ATF Form 4473 and pass a background check before that buyer takes possession of a firearm from her.  Eloise doesn't want to go to prison.

George is a stockbroker living in Ocala, Florida.  He also has several guns.  When George decided to sell all his revolvers and go strictly semi-auto, he advertised on a website known for faciitating sales and trades of firearms.  The S&W .38 Special he gave to his niece was not included.  His niece did not fill out a Form 4473, nor did she have a background check.  The Colt Python .357 Magnum George sold to his neighbor also did not result in a Form 4473 or a completed background check.  George hoped no one would make him a decent offer on his Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army in .45 Long Colt, but when a buyer from Key West offered him $8,400 for it, he buckled.  That buyer didn't want to drive all the way to Ocala to pick it up, so George's regular dealer shipped it to Griswold's Custom Firearms in Marathon where George's buyer filled out a Form 4473, passed a background check, and paid an additional $35 fee to Griswold's when he picked it up there.  A similar scenario played out for George's .44 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk when he sold it to a buyer in Wyoming.  A tourist from Texas visiting locally made George a generous offer for another of George's guns, but George knew he couldn't legally sell a firearm in Florida to someone who didn't also live in Florida.  Like Eloise, George also didn't want to go to prison.

Greg lives in Oviedo, Florida.  The guns in his collection are very special.  Greg owns a 1929 Thompson submachinegun (the 'Chicago typewriter'), two WW-II-era M3A1s ('grease guns'), a 3.75" rocket launcher (bazooka), a German Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket launcher, four MG43s (the original assault rifle), a full-automatic AK-47, and a Finnish Lahti 20mm anti-tank cannon.  Of course, he has ammunition for all of these.  His basement is a vault.  At this point, he estimates his collection to be worth around a million dollars.  He doesn't sell; he buys, and every time he does, it takes 6 months for BATFE to finish all the paperwork approving the new addition to the collection.  Every few years or so, someone from BATFE rings his doorbell and personally examines each and every piece of his collection and each and every piece of documentation regarding each and every piece of his collection — a marvelous waste of taxpayer money, but, hey, there's more where that came from, right?  Greg is considered a 'Class III dealer' even though he has never sold a single firearm — ever.

Can everyone see the pattern?  Guns not covered by the 1934 National Firearms Act can be sold person-to-person without a background check as long as neither of those persons hold a federal license to deal in firearms and as long as both of those persons reside in the same state, and are in that state at the time of the sale.  In every other case — every other case — a Form 4473 (or in Greg's case, a Form 3) will be filled out and filed, and a background check will be done.  Every other case.

The notion — widely held among those who don't actually know the law — is that anyone can go on the Internet, find a machinegun for sale, buy it, and have it shipped to their door, no paperwork, no BGC, no nothing.  Failing that, they can just visit the nearest gun show and walk out with a crate of hand grenades, no questions asked.

Don't listen to such people.  They have no idea what they're talking about.

 

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

How's That Government Workin' For Ya'?

It appears that some people are waking up to the fact that our government doesn't reliably work to the benefit of the people who are paying the bill, and this, unfortunately, seems to be coming as something of a surprise to the newly-awakened.  Such people can often be found at rallies for Bernie Sanders encouraging us to "feel the Bern", and one suspects that their hope is that having an avowed socialist as President will fix that problem.  This is truly the triumph of hope over experience.

I know how they feel.  I have for a long time been aware that government does not fulfill my hopes and dreams.  In fact, it often works at cross-purposes to those hopes and dreams, almost as if it were designed to thwart those hopes and dreams.  Perhaps it is.

You may recall my positing recently that the nature of government is to be corrupted by wealth and power, and suggesting a libertarian government might be worth a try.  In case you suspected I was suggesting there that a libertarian government would not become corrupted by wealth and power, allow me to correct that mistaken notion:  Yes, even a libertarian government is subject to becoming corrupt.  Our only hope is that it gives us a temporary toehold from which to minimize the damage.

A government which does not start out life already corrupted (almost) inevitably becomes corrupt over time.  I think this may be something of a law of nature since I have never heard of any government that was not, at the end, irredeemably corrupt.  If we approach the problem with this history firmly in our thoughts we soon begin to understand that corruption is inherent.  Very well, if we are destined to have a corrupt government, what can we do about it?  A large corrupt government is a big problem.  A small corrpt government is less of a problem.  The answer suggests itself:  to minimize the corruption, minimize the government.  What the proponents of 'smaller government' always seem to miss is that the benefit of a small government is almost entirely that the inherent corruption is thereby minimized.  The reason for this is fairly straight-forward:  a smaller government interferes less with the normal workings of an economy.

Holy $#!@!, you're thinking, is this guy crazy?  He wants to eliminate government controls??  Hang on;  the only reason corporations can get away with their predatory antics is that their bought-and-paid-for Congress has rigged the system to allow it.  Absent Congressional do-jiggering, the economy would flush them like it did Enron, and courts would pound them into the dust.  The 'vicious capitalist tactics' you so deplore are only possible because of Congressional enablers.

Okay, so how do we get a smaller government?

Well, the Republicans have long touted themselves as 'the party of smaller government'.  How have they done so far?  Alas, there has never been a Republican administration that did not preside over a larger government than the one before.  If the GOP is the party of smaller government, they must define 'smaller' as 'smaller than some theoretical maximum sized government', and they haven't yet found the proper size for their 'smaller government'.  What we know for sure from their actions is that the smaller government they seek is much larger than the one we've got now, and the one we've got now is thoroughly corrupt.  Making it bigger can only make the problem worse.  Voting Republican in order to get a smaller government is a losing bet.

Ditto the Democrats.  They freely admit their goal is to grow government because the one we've got is incapable of doing all the good things they propose.  They won't get us a smaller, less corrupt government.  They will get us a larger, more corrupt government.

Perhaps at this point you're thinking: "He's going to say 'vote Libertarian'.  If I do that, it's like casting a vote for the person I don't want elected.  It's wasting my vote!"  Well, it may seem like wasting your vote, but look at it through the other end of the telescope.  When you vote for this party or that, your vote is seen as an affirmation of what that party is doing.  Whether that party is guaranteeing universal medical care or waging war on Podunkia, they see it as your approval to do more of it.

Oh, and to make the government bigger and more corrupt.  Did I mention that?  Yes, when you vote for an already-corrupt party you're approving the corruption and encouraging them to become more corrupt.  That's not what you meant?  Sorry; that's what they heard.

Futhermore, whether you get a big, corrupt Democratic administration or a big, corrupt Republican administration, do you really think it makes much of a difference?

If you're really, truly concerned about government corruption (and if you aren't, you haven't been paying attention) you simply must not vote either Republican or Democratic.  It almost doesn't matter who you vote for as long as it isn't one of them.  Of course, I think we'd all be better served if all those 'wasted votes' went to the Libertarian candidates, but, no, it just doesn't matter.  What matters is that the winning candidate wins by garnering 27% of the votes cast, followed closely by the loser with 25%, and the Libertarian with 17%, the Green with 14%, the Socialist Workers candidate with 11%, and the Silly Party candidate with 6%.  When the talking heads of ABC, CBS, and NBC figure out that 'minor parties' got 48% of the votes cast, the next Presidntial debates you see (if you watch that tripe) will be very different than what you see today, and wouldn't that be a nice change for once?

Beyond that, once the major parties see that they're losing grass-roots support (and, probably, contributions) they may change their approach to governing.

At this point, almost any change would be an improvement.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Corruption

The natural state of all government is to be corrupted by moneyed interests.

It would be pretty easy to 'prove' this by simply pointing to every government throughout history and daring any skeptics to find one that doesn't fit the pattern.  They would, of course, fail, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

More difficult, yet ultimately more satisfying, is to lay out a logical foundation showing how admitted human nature inevitably leads to a large, unwieldy, inefficient, and thoroughly corrupt government.  The starting point is as J.E.E.Dahlberg (Lord Acton) once warned us:  'Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely', and the essence of government is power — over people, over the economy, over corporations.  Aided and abetted by a population insufficiently wary of government's tendency to grow, government will grow incrementally at first, then by leaps and bounds until powers never intended for government to have will now seem ordinary and everyday functions of government.  Normalized by long-use, functions that once were solely the province of non-governmental entities appear so natural for a central government to handle that people forget the times when government didn't do such things.

This has been the path followed by all governments — ours is not an exception — as they grow from cottage industries to leviathans.  The reason is intuitively obvious.  Friedrich Hayek offers an alternative view to that of Acton:  government itself does not corrupt, but the power inherent in government tends to attract the corruptible.  That is: bureaucrats start out corrupted and gravitate toward an environment where their natural corruption is both tolerated and nourished.  Someone, say that this is not so.  Experience has shown us that it is the most true thing one can say about government, not just our government; all governments.

It's not even certain that a Libertarian administration — populated by people who are ideologically committed to minuscule government — would not fall into this same trap.

But it might be worth a try.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bad News from Alabama

Mike Vanderboegh who runs Sipsey Street Irregulars announced on his blog today that his cancer is back with a vengeance.  His doctor told him '6 months'.

For the 'patriot movement', this counts as Very Bad News.  Mike has been the voice and the pamphleteer of that movement, sometimes called 'the 3% movement', for a dozen years or more.  We can now see the day, sadly not too far in the future, when that voice will be stilled and his pen stop writing.

Mean-spirited trolls who publicly wished for his death will soon have what they want.  The rest of us merely wish that his doctor will turn out to be an incompetent pessimist.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Obama's "answer" to the problem (sic) of guns

I put 'answer' in quotes because what the President announced today really answers nothing.  There is this weird meme floating about that gun shows are some sort of magical land where all the rules are different and those who believe this think Obama has done something to change it back to reality.  He didn't, largely because gun shows operate just like the rest of the real world.

If someone buys a gun from someone who is not a federal firearms licensee (FFL), there is no requirement to perform a BGC as long as both of those people are residents of the same state and are IN that state at time of sale.  In all other cases, a BGC is required by federal law.  ALL other cases, period.  At a store, in a garage, behind the cathedral at dawn, or at a gun show; it doesn't matter where, and it doesn't matter when.  Virtually NO ONE who sets up a (gun sales) table at a gun show is NOT a FFL.  Now for the logic problem:  what percentage of gun sales at a gun show will NOT be accompanied by a BGC?  Answer:  virtually none.

It is possible that Jed will walk the aisles with a cardboard sign around his neck saying "Colt .44 Magnum; make offer" and it is possible that someone will make him an offer that he accepts, and a gun will be sold without a BGC.  This will happen rarely, and what Obama announced today will not stop it because he didn't do what many in the Second Amendment Community suspected he might:  declare that everyone who sells a gun is automatically "a dealer".  Why didn't he do that?

Back in the 80s and 90s it was fairly easy to become a FFL.  File the paperwork, pay a nominal fee, suffer a BGC that's somewhat more elaborate than the BGC for buying a gun or getting a concealed weapons license (CWL).  Presto, change-o, you're a dealer.  You can now buy at wholesale but you have to keep meticulous records of what you buy, what you sell, and from whom and to whom.  All your sales then require a BGC and a 4473 which ATF must (by law) process and destroy in 72 hours.  You keep your copies of the 4473s for 20 years before you can destroy them.

Damn, that sounds like the kind of Action Demanded by those Moms, doesn't it?  Yes and no.  They would take exception to the 'proliferation of gun dealers operating out of garages and living rooms', and that is why, in the 90s, Bill Clinton directed ATF to clamp down on 'kitchen table dealers'.  If you didn't have a real place-of-business and only made occasional sales and purchases, they said, you're not a real dealer and just revoked your FFL.  It would be difficult for Obama to have to admit that Bill Clinton screwed up, even if he did.

ATF (short for 'Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives') now considers a person 'a dealer' if they regularly buy and sell firearms and make a profit doing so, even if they don't have a real place-of-business, so Obama announcing that from now on ATF will require such persons to register as dealers is nothing more than declaring — to the blare of trumpets — that current policy will henceforth be enforced as current policy.  In short, it's all hot air.

Outside of the Second Amendment Community, none of this is common knowledge, so all those Obama cheerleaders will be confident that their man in DC has just struck a blow for common sense.  I think it would be cruel to spoil their euphoria, don't you?  So let's just not mention to them that nothing happened today, okay?