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.