Monday, December 19, 2016

Why Term Limits Won't Solve Anything

There's a lot of agitation around the issue of 'term limits for Congress'.  It sounds like a good idea — what we used to call 'LGOP':  Looks Good On Paper — but it misses the point, and won't solve the problem of Congressfolk getting filthy rich during their tenure.  What it will do is spread the wealth a little more evenly because Congress won't have as much time to amass wealth, and their successors will get their chance sooner.  The actual total amount won't change.

How does a Congressman (includes 'Congresswoman' in its generic form) become a millionaire?  They run for re-election.  Aided by 'name recognition', an incumbent has a huge advantage over any challenger absent a scandal.  It's axiomatic that unless the candidate is caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, re-election is almost guaranteed.  An incumbent will gather lots of campaign contributions from those who wish to be seen as 'friends', yet be able to run the campaign relatively cheaply thanks to that name recognition.  What's left in the campaign chest the day after election day belongs to the candidate, and it could be substantial.  Add to this that campaign contributions can dribble in over the full course of a Congressman's term, and we're talking lots of money.

Beyond that, Congressmen pay for nothing or close to it.  Lunch in the Congressional dining room is cheaper than your cafeteria at work because it's subsidized by taxes.  Basically, you're buying lunch for Congress.  They get, in addition to a lush salary, an allowance for office expenses including their staff.  When it's time to vacation in Aruba, some constituent can always be found to offer a ride on a corporate jet because the Congressman needs to see how our foreign aid dollars are being spent, etc.  If you were banking $160,000 each year, you'd be a millionaire before your first term in the House was up.  Now you're an incumbent.

None of this would change with term limits.  Senators would run for a House seat; Representatives would seek Senate office.  When term limits kick in, there's always 'lobbying'.

Money will always flow toward Congress regardless of term limits.  There will always be bribes and graft.  The reason is simple:  Congress has the power to micro-manage the economy.  They get to decide if this company or that one lives or dies.  Naturally, if you're the owner or CEO of a company, you want to make sure that Congress decides 'lives' rather than 'dies'.  You will make sure your Congressman (all of them, actually) know your name and how much of their campaign war chest you've contributed.  If you support term limits for Congress because you want to get money out of politics, you're barking up the wrong tree.  To get money out of politics, get power out of politics first.

The key to Congress' power over business and the economy is the 'Interstate Commerce Clause':  Article I section 8 grants Congress the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;".  Originally this was intended to empower Congress to prevent states colluding with each other in ways that would enrich them at the expense of other states.  Imagine Pennsylvania and New York charging tariffs or 'inspection fees' for tobacco shipments originating in Virginia and destined for Vermont.  We are supposed to be living in The Free-Trade Zone of the Americas and the Interstate Commerce clause was supposed to make it happen.  Instead, during the FDR administration when the President needed Constitutional authority for doing all manner of things, the I/C clause was re-interpreted to provide that authority and the Supreme Court, under FDR's threat to 'pack' it, buckled under.  The result is what you see today:  Congress can do anything with impunity.  Anything.  That's not what the I/C clause was supposed to empower.

How do we know that?  Article I section 8 reads "Congress shall have power to" and goes on to list 17 things Congress shall have power to do.  As the I/C clause is currently interpreted, Art.I sect.8 says "Congress can do these 16 things and whatever the Hell else it feels like doing."  In fact, most of Art.I sect.8 is now redundant because the I/C clause is all that's needed.  Could that have been what the Constitution's writers intended?  How ridiculous!

So what happens when we re-establish a proper understanding of the I/C clause or, better, simply abolish Congress' power over interstate commerce?  The Drug War goes away.  The FBI goes away.  The FDA goes away.  The FAA goes away.  A horde of three-letter agencies evaporate: DHS, TSA, CIA, HHS, SEC, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the list goes on and on.  None of them are included within Congress' powers granted in I(8). 

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) occupies forty (40) feet of shelf space when printed, filled with regulations promulgated by nameless and unaccountable agencies, all of which you are responsible for following under penalty of the law.

What would your tax bill look like if it didn't include the budget for the thousands of bureaus and agencies Congress never had the authority to create?  More importantly, how important would term limits for Congress be without them?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

I didn't vote for Donald Trump and I have a fairly low opinion of those who did.  I have a fairly low opinion of those who voted for Clinton also, but that's neither here nor there.

That said, there's something very wrong with people, primarily Democrats, who are calling for the Electoral College to be either (a) abolished altogether or failing that (b) subverted by subborning the electors to vote for someone other than to whom they are pledged.  If you look at the map of electoral districts won by the major candidates (nobody else, not even Gary Johnson, won any) you'll see that Trump won "flyover country" and Clinton won the major metropolitan areas and almost nothing else for either.  If each elector voted for the candidate that won the elector's district rather than the elector's state, it wouldn't have been 278-to-257.  It would have been 460-to-75.  Clinton's political career would have been over.  If you're a Democrat and you hate the Electoral College, I think that might be why.

People are asserting that the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent a demagogue taking over.  No, the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent cities taking over.  It's working.

Let's talk about "Russian hacking" and its effect on the election.  First, there's a difference between 'hacking' and 'leaking'.  Hacking implies gaining illicit entry to a computer and damaging it or stealing information.  If this happened, we don't know for sure who did it.  Leaking implies giving information to someone who isn't otherwise privy to it.  That did happen, no argument from anybody.  Do we have evidence that the Russians stole data from DNC computers and leaked it via WikiLeaks?  I haven't seen any, and if the FBI or CIA or NSA has such information, the President of the United States (to whom they all report) would have ordered them to make it public.  He hasn't.  What does that suggest to you?  It suggests to me that such 'evidence' does not exist.  Russia did not hack anybody's computer; Russia did not leak the DNC emails.  If they did, it would already have found its way to the International Criminal Court — and it hasn't.

Well, somebody did.  Who?  Who had motive and opportunity?  NSA certainly has and had all those emails.  That's what they do for a living: collect data.  CIA almost certainly has and had copies.  It's NSA's job to supply CIA with information they need — and information they just want.  Maybe CIA is as pissed off as the American Right at Secretary Clinton abandoning some of their 'assets' in Benghazi.  It makes more sense that CIA is the leak than that Russia is the leak, but please continue to blame Putin.  He's convenient if nothing else.

The thing that worries me the most, however, is the insistence by some that the electors should be 'briefed' on what the current administration 'believes' even if such belief has no basis in reality.  If that happens and enough electors decide Hillary Clinton reallyreally deserves to be the next President regardless of the fact that the vast majority of electoral districts chose someone else, there's going to be a backlash from the group that is most able to lash back.  Of the hundred million gun owners in this country, all but a tiny sliver live in red districts.  Of the 350 million (est.) guns they own, almost none of them are in blue districts.  Of the 800,000 police/sheriffs in this country, what percentage do you suppose would agree that Clinton should be chosen by the Electoral College on the basis of her winning all the big cities?

We could be looking down the barrel of the next civil war.

Sweet dreams, children.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Climate-Change Debate (sic)

We are in the Holocene ('entirely new') epoch of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic ('recent life') era.  The Holocene began about 10,000 years ago when the last ice age ended.  We have been warming since then.  That is, we are currently living in an interglacial period, a warmer period that is sandwiched between two ice ages.  Global warming is thus not a recent development.  It is, in fact, the primary influence that has allowed our civilization to develop.

The current debate about 'global warming' stems from the theory that it is the result of human activity ('antropogenic global warming', AGW), that it constitutes a bad thing, and that it can be 'corrected' by human activity.  None of those positions seems entirely credible, and the science surrounding those claims is often highly speculative and emotion-driven.

James Lovelock in his book "The Gaia Hypothesis" suggests that the Earth (Gaia) is more than capable of seeing to her own defenses, does so regularly, and will correct imbalances although perhaps not in a way we would approve.  It is the fear that Gaia will correct us out of existence that drives the AGW hysteria.

Organisms either adapt or go extinct when faced with changes to their environments.  What we know from our experience is that our species adapts supremely well, in fact sometimes changing the environment to suit our present adaptation.  We have colonized the planet from pole to pole, almost literally.  We have been, briefly, to the deepest depths of the oceans and we are now venturing into space.  We travel farther and faster than any other terrestrial species.  We are at the top of the food chain, but all of that could change in unpredictable and possibly unpleasant ways, we are told by AGW alarmists, if we do not change our sinful ways.  Prime among our sins:  using fossil fuels that produce 'greenhouse gases' such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. 

Note that water vapor precipitates out of the atmosphere as rain, does so regularly, and has been doing so since the Earth first cooled from its pre-life Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), 3.8 billion (with a 'b') years ago, forming Earth's oceans, and setting the stage for the development of planetary life.  If water vapor is a problem, it's news to Gaia.

Note further that carbon dioxide is the primary food for all earthly plant life, supplemented by water.  When carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase, two things (among others) happen:  plants thrive and the oceans absorb additional carbon dioxide allowing organisms like coral to flourish.  At the same time environmentalists are complaining that corals are declining in the oceans, they are trying to starve them into extinction.

Plants, by the way, shit oxygen, and we are very happy that they do.  The molecules they retain are stored as carbohydrates, some of which are very pretty, while others are quite tasty.  It's hard to interpret these facts negatively, at least for me.

Now, it's true that dealing with eons and dealing with epochs are two entirely different matters, and that we mustn't confuse the two, but physical processes don't change with the passage of time.  Boyle's Law worked long before there was a species that produced Boyle and will work long after the human species goes extinct, if such be our fate.  It's also likely undeniable that eventually this planet will slip back into another ice age — that's why we're said to be in an interglacial period — and we'll really really wish we could provoke a little global warming... or a lot.

In fact, if GW is actually anthropogenic and if we can keep up the good work, perhaps we need never worry about glaciers advancing south and covering New York a mile deep in ice.  Again.

On the other hand, there could be worse things than New York covered by a mile of ice.  'New York not covered in ice' springs to mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Alea jacta est.

Well, it's happened again:  I've been unfriended on Facebook by a cousin over a difference of opinion.  She thinks there are "good cops", the best of them being her husband who was killed — adventitiously — on his way to work;  I hold that if there are any good cops they are overwhelmingly outnumbered.  I think the thing that pushed her over the edge was me suggesting that — if things keep going the way they're going — 'cop' is finally going to break into the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs

We have crossed a Rubicon-of-sorts with the recent spate of execution-style slayings and attacks on what seem to be random police officers.  These were (we think) just ordinary cops going about their ordinary days when they were set upon by some disaffected someone and killed for wearing their gang colors — blue, usually.  Almost everyone seems genuinely surprised.  Why would anyone kill a cop 'just because'?  Just because that broken taillight just cost you $145 and a mark on your license?  Just because it's the end of the month and Corporal Smith needs to write four more tickets or he'll get a letter of reprimand in his personnel jacket?  Just because you're black or Hispanic?  Just because the window tinting that's legal where your car is registered happens to be illegal in this county, mister?  Just because the family dog is now dead because the cop investigating the burglary down the street feared for his life?

The justification for this, of course, is that these officers don't make the laws;  they just enforce them.  That's their job.  They're LEOs, law enforcement officers, and they're just following orders.  Besides, if they don't do it, somebody else will, see?  And you wouldn't be complaining about any of this if you just followed the law in the first place.  If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.  It's that simple.

They say.

So, when officers are ordered to disperse the crowds of unruly DAPL protesters, they trot out their water cannons and douse those protesters with water in sub-freezing weather.  That'll send them scurrying to find warmth and dry clothing!  No protesters equals no protest.  Let's finish this project and go home!  First amendment?  What first amendment?

You and I have a hard time imagining being soaked-to-the-skin in 26 degree cold, but I think there is probably no one who thinks it would be classified as 'humane treatment'.  If the police are going to treat the people inhumanely, why would they expect better treatment and more respect in return?  Does the Golden Rule have an exception for police?

That's the Rubicon.  Police expect to get away with inhumane treatment — racial profiling, excessive use of force, automatic forgiveness when they make an error like SWATting the wrong house at 2:15am and making the whole family stand outside in the snow in their pajamas while search teams ransack the house looking for drugs that aren't there — and they expect that everyone else will still tip their hat and wish them "Have a nice day, officer".  That's the Rubicon they have now crossed.  Alea jacta est.  The die is cast.  The bell has rung, and it cannot be unrung.

We have to come up with a solution or we're facing a very unhappy future.  By 'we', I mean we the people and we the police.  Both communities have to buy in to whatever the solution turns out to be.  The alternative?  Well, there are something like a half million police in this country, and a hundred million armed Americans who are not police.  Do the numbers.  If, as I believe, the bad cops seriously outnumber the good cops, those good cops won't be able to do anything except resign and retreat.  Not doing so will be extremely hazardous, since in extremis the assumption will be that anyone in uniform is automatically 'bad'.  This is such a bad scenario that I can't imagine any cop wanting to even contemplate it.  No, the solution has to be something else.

One possible solution is to disarm the police — don't laugh.  Citizens will then be expected to come to the aid of a police officer when asked.  Interactions between police and public will thereafter be voluntary.  If you are stopped on the street by an officer, you will not have to fear being shot, but you may be arrested if the officer can make a good enough case to those citizens assisting.  If the officer cannot make a good case, you continue about your business because the officer can't hold you at gunpoint.  This is actually the America our Founding Fathers envisioned.  They lived in a world without police — at all.  There were constables, but they were no better armed than anyone they would encounter in the normal course of a day, and their duties were strictly peace-keeping, not law-enforcing.  The difference, of course, is that peace-keeping benefits the community, and law-enforcing benefits the State.

If we seek a peaceful future, our police must lead us there.  If they can't or won't, then we will need to be our own police or we will need to get ready for war.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why are there only two major parties?

Did you ever wonder why "third parties" never seem to gain much traction?  When so many Americans self-identify as "libertarian", why does the LP not qualify as a "major party"?

Well, in case you've wondered, wonder no more.  I'm about to lay some truthiness on ya', and I'll start with an anecdote in the first person.

Some years back — 1990 or thereabouts — an event mandated by the Florida Constitution woke me up.  Every so often, Florida requires that a Constitution Revision Committee be... umm... constituted and its members charged with surveying the people of the state to find out what's wrong that needs to be fixed, and to thereafter propose constitutional amendments to do such fixing.  At the time of that 1990 CRC, the LPF (Libertarian Party of Florida) had a goal — to fix Florida's outrageous ballot access law.  "Outrageous"; that's a pretty strong word.  Why would anyone think such a thing?

At the time, Florida's ballot access law read approximately (I'm not going to copy all that legal gobbledeygook verbatim, dammit) "for Republicans and Democrats, ballot access can be attained by ..." and listed a few fairly-easy-to-accomplish tasks in a choose-one-of-the-above format; "...for all others, ballot access can be attained by ..." and listed a series of relatively difficult processes in a do-all-of-these-or-else format (yes, it actually named the Republican and Democratic parties).  That is, if you were already a R or D, getting on the ballot was pretty simple and straightforward, but if you weren't, you had to start collecting petition signatures not earlier than date-A and ending not later than date-B and submit them to the Department of State by date-C with a nice fat check to cover all the verification that had to be done to make sure you weren't trying to pull a fast one.  The Rs and Ds could get on the ballot as "petition candidates" by collecting a handful of signatures or just paying a nominal fee, or — the really easy way — they could just be nominated by their county committee.  Everybody else had to collect mountains of signatures and empty their treasury to pay the filing fee.

Unfair?  Yes, but also "outrageous".  As a result of this... ahem... disparity, Florida had not seen a third party candidate on their ballot since 1928 when, coincidentally, that new ballot access law was passed — by the Republicans and Democrats.  In 1990, a Tampa maverick named Jack Gargan stoked a political firestorm called THRO (Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out) and managed to actually get on the ballot — the first time since 1928 anyone had done it.  The LPF saw that as an opportunity to level the playing field.  They pulled out all the stops and managed to get the law thrown out on Constitutional grounds.  Now in Florida the rules are the same for everybody.

So, what happens in other places with similarly discriminatory ballot access rules such as pre-1990 Florida?  Well, for a year or so a party collects dues and contributions from its members and when election time comes around, those members hit the bricks with clipboards and nominating petitions asking random passers-by for their endorsement.  It's a frantic effort almost always time-limited and heavily volunteer-dependent and labor-intensive, and it often fails.  If it appears that the signature deadline can be met, the party almost always writes a check that effectively bankrupts it.  They're on the ballot, but they don't have any money to actually run a campaign.  Even high-profile parties like the LP and the Greens run into this problem — a problem the major parties never even have to think about.

So, do you think these discriminatory rules are put in place to make sure the Rs and Ds never have any serious competition?  Do you think they're not?

Unequal ballot access requirements are the main — perhaps the only — reason you rarely see any significant campaigns for third party candidates.  Even after those rules are evened-out, it takes decades, generations even, for a smaller party to grow into a threat.  The Florida LP has had a quarter-century to catch up and still hasn't gotten substantial traction against the monstrous war chests that can be deployed by the major parties.  As a result — or perhaps it's a cause — third-party votes are still seen by many as "wasted votes".

Until the people get over their "wasted vote" delusion and start voting for parties that actually represent their views, the effect is nearly identical to discriminatory ballot access rules — which still exist in many states.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What Happened To The Soviet Union?

From the Russian Revolution in 1917 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, communism had one of the largest, most robust bases-of-operation imaginable.  For 45 years after the end of WW-II, 'the West' (primarily The United States) engaged in a Cold War — mostly political maneuvering, espionage, sabotage, and outright bribery — in an effort to contain the growth of the other.  The most newsworthy incident of the time involved the Soviet gambit to install missiles in Cuba.

During the 80s, Ronald Reagan proposed, and the US spent time, effort, and money developing a futuristic anti-missile defense (dubbed "Star Wars" for its planned use of directed-energy weaponry).  Although it never actually materialized, the Soviets had to counter the impending threat (the inventive Americanskis, after all, might actually have pulled that rabbit out of their hat) and the colossal cost of doing so bankrupted, for all intents and purposes, the entire Soviet operation.  Within a few years, the Soviet Union collapsed, having run out of money.  It is said in retrospect that Reagan raised the stakes so high the Soviets couldn't call the bet.  It's probably an accurate description of what happened, but it raises additional questions about how the whole Cold War was waged.

—==+++==—

The most intriguing question, I think, is 'what would have happened had we not moved to block each and every communist gambit?'

What we know with near-certainty is that socialism/communism is at the top of its game when used as a philosophical ideal.  As an economic system, it's a losing bet.  You can run an economy socialistically only for so long before the internal stresses and frictions make it grind to a halt.  Like physical systems, entropy will eventually catch up to it.  ('Entropy' for economic systems is the resistance of individuals to the central planning inherent in all socialist economies.  It takes several forms which may be described as "I should move to somewhere I'm more appreciated" or "They're not paying me enough to do this job well" or "I made my quota for the week already".  Each means the economy is not running at 100%.)

If a government is very careful, the game can be played for a much longer time.  Sweden and Norway are examples of this although Sweden is currently seeing cracks form in its medical delivery system stressed as it is by a huge influx of immigrants from the Middle East drawn by the promise of free stuff.  If the game is played less carefully, economic entropy gets you sooner rather than later.  How long?  The economic resources you start with play a big part in that, to be sure.  Norway has North Sea oil reserves that will allow the game to go on for quite a long time.  Sweden has only those reverves built up over a long period when it was a much different sort of country, economically speaking.

When the West pushed back against communist 'aggression' here, there, and elsewhere in the world, China and Russia slowed their advances and this probably made them better able to continue.  What if we had just let them run rampant?  Yes, they would have gobbled up lots of territory and those conquered people would suffer under increasingly repressive central planners, but that suffering is the entropy that attacks socialist systems.  Might the Soviet Union have collapsed in 1981 or even 1971 had we simply let them expand unchecked?

'But an expanding Soviet Union would be a threat to world peace,' someone objects.  How?  It was never a possibility that the USSR would nuke the US; never.  In most years, it was the output of Kansas and Nebraska that kept the people of the USSR fed through the winter.  To entertain the thought that the USSR was led by people stupid enough to destroy their own food shows an alarming inability to grasp reality.

When Eisenhower left office in 1960, he left a message for us in his farewell address.  In it, he warned of "the military-industrial complex' and its ability to take over our economy and our government.  We didn't listen.  Since then, the Pentagon's budget has grown steadily, year after year, fueled by war after war such that today if the Pentagon were its own country it would be the seventh-largest economy in the world.  Just the Pentagon.  A military budget bigger than France's.  Not 'bigger than France's military budget'; bigger than France's budget.

There are abroad in our country people who will earnestly assert that we need a military that large to properly defend ourselves.  It's fair to ask, I think, why Great Britain doesn't need a military budget of a comparable size and why France doesn't and why Germany doesn't and why Spain doesn't and (most tellingly) why China and Russia don't.  The answer, of course, is that we taxpayers of the United States foot the bill for defending not only ourselves, but dozens of other countries who spend little or nothing on their own defense.  Why should they if Uncle Sugar is picking up the tab?  Then, too, we regularly engage in offensive military operations, primarily in the Middle East, ostensibly to combat 'terrorism' and that doesn't come cheap.  Our fighting men (and women) deserve the best of the best when it comes to armaments, and don't forget our allies.  They need to be comparably equipped and we need to make that happen.

There's a vast difference in the cost of fighting a war here against an invading army as opposed to the cost of fighting a war there as an invading army.  Note carefully what is happening:  we are expanding the way the Soviet Union expanded and there is no one around to stop us.  We will expand until, just like the Soviet Union, we go bankrupt.

Who will be "the last man standing" when that happens, I wonder?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Could we have an upset in the making?

I'm increasingly repulsed by the idea that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton might be the next President.  Is it even possible for the American people to be so stupid?  Alas, I fear it may be so.

The only bright spots amidst all the doom-and-gloom are the occasional reports from here or there that Republican defectors who vow #NeverTrump and Democratic defectors who would have voted for Sanders but not Clinton are all looking for a place to roost.  If many of them find Johnson/Weld, we could have an upset on our hands.  No, I'm not counting on it, but I can hope, can't I?

Indeed, the team of fiscally-tight ex-Republican governors (Johnson ran NM, Weld MA) are also social liberals and outlaws.  Both cut taxes and spending while in office and trimmed the size of their respective state governments.  Johnson proudly admits to having smoked MJ, not just in the past, but currently, and thinks the current drug laws need to be repealed.  There's a lot to like about both, and there's a lot to like by Berners as well as awakening Republicans.  For those who are anti-war, Johnson/Weld are the only reliably non-interventionist candidates in the race but they're not yet 'qualified for the debates' because most pollsters don't list them by name, just 'other'.

If they can be slid into the debates (if any) between Clinton and Trump, they will truly be 'the adults in the room', because both Clinton and Trump are supporting policies and platforms that are nothing more than 'more of the same, but bigger'.  You can count on U.S. involvement in the Middle East growing dramatically if either Clinton or Trump wins the White House.  Each of them has already promised to take us back to war.

It would change the face of American politics permanently should either Hillary or The Donald have to defend their stances against reasoned libertarian critique.  The American people keep indicating they want something new, but they seem unwilling to do anything to get it.  That's the big shame.

Friday, July 15, 2016

More 'community outreach' from 'The Religion of Peace'

I'm sure there are people who honestly believe there is a difference between 'radical Islam' and 'mainstream Islam'.  There are others who are convinced there is no difference.  The mass-murder-by-truck in Nice, France yesterday brings those two camps closer together, and the movement, I assure you, is toward 'no difference'.  Incident after bloody incident, the world is coming to realize that Islam and Western Civilization are incompatible.  One of them has to lose to the other.  It is becoming less and less possible to sustain the belief that Islam can peacefully coexist in the West.

France seems to be a particular target for reasons which are not at all clear.  Perhaps it is merely that, in their zeal to be seen as a cultural leader, they have allowed Islam to more deeply infiltrate their country.  Perhaps it is because France has a tradition of being a 'Catholic country' and toppling the polity that drove the Crusades in the 12th century is seen by Islam as the jewel in the crown for the 21st century.

Poor France!  Their citizens are disarmed prey against a wave of refugees whose primary goal, it seems to outside observers, is to destroy that beautiful country and its peaceful people.  What a tragedy it will be for Western civilization when the Islamic barbarians finally dynamite those blasphemous buildings: Notre Dame de Paris, Sacre Coeur, and the cathedrals at Chartres and Rheims.  Hopefully, all the portable art work will already have been transported to safety by the time the Louvre becomes a mosque.  We know that it will happen should Islam gain a majority.  We've seen it happen elsewhere.

If the Islamic tide is to be turned, it must be turned soon.  France does not have a First Amendment, as do we.  They can declare Islam an ideology that threatens the stability of the nation and eject its practitioners back to where they came from.  For the United States, the problem is different:  for as long as Islam is considered 'a religion', they are protected by a constitutional prohibition against government action.  Therein lies the key.

We must develop a consensus that Islam is not, in fact, 'a religion' in the sense that word is used in the Constitution.  It is, in fact, an ideology bent on the conquest and destruction of competing cultures.  When Islam is seen as 'just another ideology' it will be constitutionally possible to deny entry to those who subscribe to it, as we did with anarchists and communists in decades past.  To fail to protect our Western culture is to surrender it to the barbarian hordes of Mohammed.

Choose now:  Freedom or Islamification.  There is no middle path.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The Orlando shooting has prompted the usual calls for more restrictions that wouldn't have helped had they been in place ten years ago.  Reinstate the assault weapons ban!  The 1994 ban didn't prohibit possession, just manufacture and retail sale.  Missing from all the hype is the fact that, in Florida, it is a potential felony to have a firearm at an establishment whose primary revenue is from alcohol sales — as the Pulse nightclub's was.  Got it?  Nobody at that place was legally armed.  Nobody at that place could legally defend themselves.  They were all sitting ducks.  The shooter's choice of weapon was immaterial.

Also missing from the reports was that the shooter was a registered Democrat.  It wasn't possible to hide that the shooter was an adherent of Islam.

I ask people: "what law, had it been in place ten years ago, would have prevented that shooting?", and almost no one is willing to venture an answer — because the answer is so politically incorrect that the words will not escape the lips of anyone calling for an end to "gun violence". 

Here's the answer:  If, ten years ago, we had declared Islam to be not a religion, but simply an ideology, and one incompatible with the dictates of the American system, we would have already deported or otherwise minimalized the ill-effects of Islam in our country.  We did it for communists.  We did it for anarchists.  Why not terrorists?

But, no.  The unthinking would simply rather trot out some statistics to shame us with the knowledge that America is such a violent place and Americans are such violent people.  I say 'unthinking' because such people throw statistics about criminal usage of guns before us and then try to convince us that all gun usage is criminal.  Stated that way, it's obviously a bogus argument.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, studies conducted by the US Dept of Justice during the Clinton years suggest that in the absence of a legally armed populace, America would look more like an abattoir.  The DOJ found that there were more lawful uses of firearms than unlawful uses by a factor of 27.  That's right; for every person criminally killed with a gun, 27 crimes of violence were prevented — by a lawfully armed citizen.

God forbid the gun grabbers get what they want.  If you want to see what happens if they do, rent a copy of "Children Of Men" and be afraid; be very afraid.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Liberals vs Libertarians

After crossing (verbal) swords with my daughter, I realized that she had (perhaps unwittingly) taught me the real difference between liberals and libertarians.

Libertarians see the world as mostly good.  I have heard non-libertarians criticize libertarians for seemingly looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.  Perhaps they're right.  John Lennon did that, and look what it got him.  But libertarians don't deny or ignore that evil exists in this world.  They choose to focus on the goodness that's here rather than the evil.  The Golden Rule is our mantra:  treat others as you wish to be treated.  At the same time, we fully acknowledge the First Corollary to The Golden Rule:  how you treat me tells me all I need to know about how you wish me to treat you.

Liberals, in contrast, seem much more the realists because they concentrate on the more insidious aspects of modern life.  Because they focus on the evil in this world, they develop a particular mind-set:  they long to eliminate the evil.  While this sounds like a noble pursuit, we know, don't we, that eliminating evil is the equivalent of a Boy Scout 'snipe hunt' or that old practical joke of sending someone to fetch a left-handed monkey wrench.  We can chuckle over liberals' naïve crusade to root out evil all the while shaking our heads over the methods they choose.  Because most of you are defined as implicitly evil, you must be forced — whether by law or social convention or 'political correctness' — to behave yourselves.  You clearly won't do it on your own.

What that means, on a most basic level, is that whenever 'unpleasantness' is detected, another law is passed to correct it, with the predicable result that we now have so many laws that no one can realistically be expected to know — much less observe — all of them.  Ayn Rand recognized that, even if only implicitly, and so we have this quote from "Atlas Shrugged":

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris.  "We want them to be broken.  You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against...  We're after power and we mean it...  There's no way to rule innocent men.  The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them.  One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.  Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?  What's there in that for anyone?  But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.  Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.”

Thus we have ranchers going to federal prison because they moved fill dirt to a place that had been designated as a 'wetland'.  Got that?  Their own property is now no longer theirs to do with as they choose because someone in a far-off city — possibly someone who has never actually seen the land in question — has decided that some potential evil must be forestalled.  Libertarians would have demanded proof-positive that some evil had already happened — accompanied by mens rea, the knowledge that the act being done was evil, or at least illegal.

Libertarians want a society where your actions are presumed to be in the best interests of society until some proof exists that they are not.  Naturally robbery, rape, arson, fraud, assault, and murder all carry prima facie the implication that they are anti-social if for no reason other than none of us want to be subject to any of those acts.

There is another aspect to that difference:  liberals are prospective punishers;  libertarians are reactive punishers.  Liberals make laws to prevent bad things from happening (but they happen anyway);  libertarians believe in making an injured party whole.  Thus, when government went after "Big Tobacco", they extracted a huge fine from the deepest pockets in the industry.  Did that fine go toward offsetting the medical expenses of people who had been harmed by tobacco's ill-effects?  No, the fine went right into the Treasury's General Revenue fund.  Not a penny went to offset injured parties' medical costs.

You can be a reactive punisher with just a county court house:  here's where the damage occurred;  here's where the trial occurred.  To be a prospective punisher, you have to cast a wide net.  You have to be able to prospect for evil-doing in all 50 states.  It has to be a federal project.  People (like libertarians) who propose that all problems should be solved as close to the local level as possible are institutionally opposed to federalizing every crime imaginable.  That may be the biggest difference between libertarians and liberals. With the proliferation of laws, there arise many golden opportunities to profit from those laws.  Who profits?  Senators, Representatives, corporate executives, perhaps.  You?  Never.

Liberals wail about how evil corporations have seized control of the government, but they can't admit that it was their unquenchable thirst to protect society with a wall of new laws that actually caused what they now bemoan.

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 then 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 with 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 corrupt 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?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Phi-bonacci's Mysterious Series

I'm fascinated and intrigued by Leonardo Bonacci who was, oddly, called 'Fibonacci'.  He introduced what we now call 'arabic numerals' to Europe in 1202 in what was the forerunner of all mathematics texts in the Western World, the Liber Abaci.  In that book he introduced what today is known as 'the Fibonacci sequence':

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, &c.,
wherein each new term is the sum of the previous two, e.g.:
2 + 3 = 5.
And that about sums up what we know about Leonardo Bonacci.

What he didn't put in the book is also significant, mostly because he probably didn't realize it.  Understand that computing with arabic numerals was brand-new in Europe, even for Bonacci.  The thing he missed was that the limit of the ratios of the Fibonacci sequence homes or 'asymptotes' to 1.6180339887, e.g.:

832040 / 514229 = 1.6180339887...

"Big deal," I just heard someone mutter.  Well, yes, when you consider that the inverse is almost exactly identical:

514229 / 832040 = 0.6180339887...
514229 / 832040 = (832040 / 514229) - 1
Slightly weird.

Mathematicians find this number (1.618...) very useful and it lends itself to beautiful graphic explanations as well.  Since it's used so often, it has become a convention to use the Greek letter phi (Φ) to represent 1.618033... and its lower case form (φ) to represent 0.618033...  That means that

Φ - φ = 1 and Φ × φ = 1.

This number, Φ, is also called 'the golden ratio' and is found nearly everywhere you look, especially in architecture, botany, biology, and meteorology.  Φ is implicated in the spiral shapes of the chambered nautilus, sunflowers, and hurricanes.

YouTube has many great short videos that talk about Φ-bonacci, the Φ-bonacci sequence, and the Golden Ratio.