Scandal Alert: Congress Is Quietly Abandoning the 5th Amendment – The Atlantic

I cannot understand what is going through their heads it’s as if they are utterly abased by their fears of the world outside Washington DC. I still say that those who trade safety for freedom, particularly of their constituents, are fools, scoundrels and poltroons!!
Scandal Alert: Congress Is Quietly Abandoning the 5th Amendment – The Atlantic.

WSJ | There are few permanent victories or defeats in American politics, and Tuesday wasn’t one of them. The battle for liberty begins anew this morning.

Good pep talk from the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Obama’s campaign stitched together a shrunken but still decisive version of his 2008 coalition—single women, the young and culturally liberal, government and other unions workers, and especially minority voters.

He said little during the campaign about his first term and even less about his plans for a second. Instead his strategy was to portray Mitt Romney as a plutocrat and intolerant threat to each of those voting blocs. No contraception for women. No green cards for immigrants. A return to Jim Crow via voter ID laws. No Pell grants for college.

This was all a caricature even by the standards of modern politics. But it worked with brutal efficiency—the definition of winning ugly. Mr. Obama was able to patch together just enough of these voting groups to prevail even as he lost independents and won only 40% of the overall white vote, according to the exit polls. His campaign’s turnout machine was as effective as advertised in getting Democratic partisans to the polls.

There were several other pieces today that said some of the same things, essentially you cannot win against the progressive / liberal patchwork with a pure social conservative / fiscal conservative mantra.

The Republican side was made up of:

  • survivors of the old line right center Big Business Republicans
  • evangelical social conservative/moderate
  • moderate libertarians
  • constitutional originalists
  • small business owners
  • And a rather long list of single issue activists
  • anti immigrant
  • gun rights
  • anti-abortion
  • anti-tax

The problem seems to be similar to one that the democrats used to lay claim to, Big Tentism…trying to pander to too many one topic interests to the detriment of a centralizing theme.  No party can offer blanket coverage for all the rather distantly touched special interests without weakening itself.

The centralizing theme of the Republican party is, personal responsibility and non intrusive government, based on the rule of law centered on a relatively strong reference to the Constitution.

The centralizing theme of the Democratic party might be seen as common responsibility, government central mediator, based on the interpretation of law referring to the constitution among other iconic law systems.

A key problematic special interests in the Republican party today is Big Business (as a themed entity not as the people in the companies,) not because Big Business is evil but because its interests are really more in line with the Democratic Party centralizing themes, not the Republican party’s.  The only reason Big Business tents in the Republican camp is because the Democrats demonize it, and the actual ‘People’ (i.e. agents) who are the cells of the Big Business are generally very much aligned with the centralizing theme of the Republican party.  But the Players and the Companies when operating in aggregate (or for the company) are much more likely to support the Democratic baseline than the Republican one.

Various single issues activists, particularly the semi organized Tea Party activists of various sub stripes, have pushed their way and their interests into the Republican party.  As above providing huge clubs to beat the overall party to death with.   The TP has tried to remake the Republican party in its image…which purposely does not exist.  This has again and again wrecked the chances of the party by putting up candidates who are very easily caricatured by their opponents and driven into defeat.

That’s not to say that some of the single issues activists are not right and that they all should be driven out.  The gun lobby while demonized is a strength in the party as long as it sticks to the line it has in recent years, this resonates well with personal responsibility and non-interference.  Anti tax when not carried to caricature.  Pro life, when not carried to the level of stupid anti-abortion extremism (as I’ve said before almost everyone is pro-life, most are modestly anti-abortion, but the paternalistic-extremism of an Akin or a Mourdock is nuts in this day.)

Consistency to theme should be considered strongly:  For example:  Pro-Life –>anti-abortion, anti death penalty,  limits to the pursuit of extra territorial murder (drone wars.) pro scientific medical advances (with ethical limits.) In other words limit very tightly the ability of the government to kill anyone unless they pose an immediate threat to the US, which of course has to be defined pretty damned broadly but still consistently.  (i.e. OBL raid was a perfectly reasonable action.)

If you look at the paragraph above you would realize that the Catholic Church while staying out of politics is going to support the Republican theme much more strongly than it did,does today.

Same goes for immigration, we are a nation of immigrants, and the nation needs the flow of immigrants because population growth is inherently good for the US economy in every way for the foreseeable future.  Yes borders should be protected from military incursion (which I think we do pretty well) but no country with a border as long and open (no geographic obstacles like seas, cliffs or rivers) as the US’s can seal its borders without imposing a police state, which largely stops people coming because there is no reason for them to want to go into bondage, who really wants to go to North Korea, all their walls are to keep people in, not out.    Like abortion this is a sore point with fundamentalists but at the end of the day I have never seen anti-immigration sentiment that is not at base about fear of the other or of having to compete.

One of the biggest most fundamental issues that the Republican majority has to come to grips with is that the US has always been about creative destruction and that nothing can stay the same in an evolving world.  We have to compete on the global stage in every venue and that means that in some niches we go up and others we go down.  At the end of the day nothing can protect you as a person from the winds of economic and social change and trying to do so just fosters tyranny. The only thing that provides you a shield is flexibility and the willingness to learn and adapt, which in general the average American has been better at than the rest of humanity, partly because of the freedoms that the country provides to fail and try again.

The Republican party needs to focus on the themes I think it stands for:  personal responsibility and non intrusive government, based on the rule of law centered on a relatively strong reference to the Constitution.

    • Moderate taxes (limit on income taxes, everyone pays income tax
    • Moderate, smart and regulation (stop regulators getting captured by those they regulate)
    • Pro immigrant
    • Pro small business  (not anti big business, just stop giving them special treatment)
    • Pro gun
    • Strong defense
    • Pro Life (not anti-abortion) (anti death penalty)
    • Pro Free trade even if it hurts

Then you have my dreams:

  • One term at a time (no re-elections, you can be president as many times as you want, but only one term at a time, then you take a break before running again.)
  • Individual Health Care:
  • Individual Retirement.

I’m with Ike!!!

File:Dwight D Eisenhower official photograph.jpg

I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center.


We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.


The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

And again:

If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.

Most Famously…and foresightedly:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

With this as a postscript…from a man who would know:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

What we need in a president is someone with these understandings.  And a person who is willing to talk to the people honestly and directly about the decisions being made the trade offs necessary without diving into the cant (dialect) of economics, financiers, government (acronymophilia) or academia (grecoromanobibliophilia.)

The truth is that the president is both the most powerful person in the world and one of the most constrained chief executives in government.  This is a good thing, a different combination would be very frightening.

Our president should have clear moral and ethical lynch pins, but that does not mean that he or she can or should try to enforce those views except as permitted and directed by congress and the courts.   For example the president to represent the Ethics of the people of the United States needs to be anti-abortion (always) but know that in the end it has to be a choice made by the woman with her own conscience, that is the meaning of individualism in politics/society.

Much about taxation and regulation is beyond the direct control of the president but the executive does control implementation.  The number of laws is so huge that there is no way to actually enforce them all.  [A problem congress needs to fix by timing out old laws and replacing them with simpler laws updated every decade or so.]  A president needs to  follow the letter of the law but always push for the most minimal use of resources to enforce them, sometimes (a lot of the time) to the point of ignoring them except as modifiers (adders) if someone is indited for other reasons.  The biggest job an executive has is to ensure that the ‘system’ is not captured by those it is supposed to regulate…or if it is (by law) to ensure that they are self regulating to the advantage of the citizens in general, not their own enrichment or more dangerously their enshrinement.  Far too many of our laws at all levels of government, intended (perhaps) to protect the poor defenseless citizen, are in action a way for a small group to ensure that their way of life (money siphon) is affected (throttled or knocked from their lips), for example:  medical, bar, plumbing, electrician, cosmetician, licensing laws in each state.

Blue Model – Education and Family Life from Via Meadia

Walter Russel Mead continues his Blue Model contextualization of the 19th, 20th century. A deeply thoughtful look at what was, why it was, and the beginning of a philosophical platform for looking at what is to come:

A family business circa 19th century model

A family business circa 19th century model

American kids spent more time in school as a general rule than kids in other parts of the world in the 19th century, but their “book learning” was only one part of a much broader and richer education that prepared them to be productive citizens. Parents taught kids the fundamentals of agriculture and animal husbandry; they taught them the hundreds of skills that went into maintaining a family farm. In urban areas and sometimes on farms, adolescents went to work on nearby farms or serve as apprentices. There they found production units much like the one they came from: the husband and wife were the proprietors of a bustling family enterprise that might include a few hired hands but in which young people and older people lived, learned and worked side by side.


In the 20th century, it became increasingly common for both parents to work in quite different jobs and professions, often many miles from home. Blue collar workers worked in factories and warehouses; pink collar workers in service and clerical positions; professionals and white collar workers in offices.


If we wonder why marriage isn’t as healthy today in many cases, one reason is surely that the increasing separation of the family from the vital currents of economic and social life dramatically reduces the importance of the bond to both spouses – and to the kids.


Repetitive factory work taught very little; to put ten-year-olds in a factory for a shift was to deprive them of learning and stunt their intellectual growth. On the other hand, office and administrative work often demanded skills that few children could acquire. It was cruel to put kids in the factories or coal mines; useless to put them in an office.


As the educational system grew more complex and elaborate (without necessarily teaching some of the kids trapped in it very much) and as natural opportunities for appropriate work diminished, more and more young people spent the first twenty plus years of their lives with little or no serious exposure to the world of work.


In the absence of any meaningful connection to the world of work and production, many young people today develop identities through consumption and leisure activities alone. You are less what you do and make than what you buy and have: what music you listen to, what clothes you wear, what games you play, where you hang out and so forth. These are stunted, disempowering identities for the most part and tend to prolong adolescence in unhelpful ways. They contribute to some very stupid decisions and self-defeating attitudes. Young people often spend a quarter century primarily as critics of a life they know very little about: as consumers they feel powerful and secure, but production frightens and confuses them.


People often speak of the need to revive vocational and industrial education as a way of reaching students for whom the traditional academic classroom holds little appeal; more basically, education needs to be integrated with the priorities and purposes of life as these young people experience it.

As I said here, complexity and segregation of our lives drove many social changes.

In the 19th century, American communities were small and generally self-managed. Most Americans lived in small towns or in rural areas where government really was something people did for themselves. The “state” scarcely existed; outside port inspectors and postal officials, the federal government was largely invisible. And even at the state level, local communities were much more autonomous than they generally are now. Local mayors and selectmen had very few mandates coming down from on high; people managed their own schools and roads and other elements of their common life by their own lights.

In the 20th century Americans became more politically passive as the state grew. The citizen was less involved in making government and more involved in watching it, commenting on it, and picking candidates who were sold the way other consumer goods are marketed: you voted for which party and candidates you supported, but more and more of the business of government was carried on by permanent civil servants acting under expert guidance. Government did much more to you, and you did less of it yourself.

 WRM discusses the urbanization and complexity of life in the 20th century and I think rightly points out that more gov’t was inevitable.  I would also point out that the above description of the 19th century was largely true till something like the last thirty years.  When I first emerged from my family in the 1980s the vast majority of the land in the US was still governed very lightly.  In many ways the differences between Eastern Urban | West Coast Urban | and the light urban cities most other places, were quite extreme.  But the basic thrust of the above is not affected one iota by that quibble.

Since work itself was so unrewarding for so many, satisfaction came from getting paid and being able to enjoy your free time in the car or the boat that you bought with your pay. It was a better deal than most people have gotten through history, but the loss of autonomy and engagement in work was a cost, and over time it took a greater and greater toll.

there was a feeling that we needed to keep:

up consumption so the economy could work. It was not just the experience of the Depression that led so many to the conclusion that under consumption was the characteristic problem of a capitalist economy.  ……     . Many businessmen promoted imperialism in European countries and to some degree in the US because they wanted …….. markets for their goods. When the age of imperialism came to an end, the intensive development of home markets replaced the extensive development of foreign markets in the eyes of many social thinkers and planners……


Another factor promoted the rise of a consumer economy: the development of new and much more expensive goods required a psychological and institutional shift. If people couldn’t buy cars and refrigerators — to say nothing of houses — on credit, the markets for these goods would be vanishingly small. Americans had traditionally been averse to debt, whether personal or governmental. They thought like producers, for whom debt is sometimes necessary but always a cost. Thrift mattered, and for many Americans it was a point of pride not to buy on credit; if you didn’t have the cash for something, you waited.

That kind of attitude wouldn’t keep the car factories humming. The blue social model involved an unprecedented expansion in the use of credit by private households, large companies and all levels of government. Debt was the mother’s milk of blue prosperity and John Maynard Keynes was the prophet of the blue age. While consumer finance has deep roots in Anglo-American history, with installment plans used to sell goods like furniture and sewing machines well back into the 19th century, the 2oth century became a golden age of consumer credit, and to carry large balances on credit cards, home mortgages and student loans came to seem normal and respectable in a way that would have shocked Americans living in the 19th century.

Between the 1930s and the 1970s this worked better than many of its critics expected.  In a relatively closed economy like the US, if more people went into debt to buy more stuff, the demand would stimulate economic growth, which would tend to raise wages and employment. The additional income would offset the cost of carrying the debt and support additional consumption as well.

And so round and round the money went and it all worked.  Until globalization began to derail the machine.

But the real problem with the debt-based, consumption-focused blue social model, the one that bothered many social critics even in the days when the blue model was working and looked sustainable, is one of values. A consumption-centered society is ultimately a hollow society. It makes people rich in stuff but poor in soul. In its worst aspects, consumer society is a society of bored couch potatoes seeking artificial stimulus and excitement. They watch programs on television about adventures they will never have. They try to change their consciousness through the consumption of products (entertainment, consumer goods, drugs) rather than by changing the world and accomplishing things. The massive use of recreational and mood altering drugs reflects and embodies the distortions that a passive, consumption-based society produces in human populations over time.

Ultimate Couch Potato Contestant(s)?

The above image could be seen as “The end”…but no its not…humans are only able to take so much passivity (at least at the sociatal level) look at what Putin is facing, 10 years of kleptocracy given a free hand because he has made the lives of more Russian’s better than they ever have been. But now they are sick and tired of the grinding corruption and the insults it produces at every turn. Now even though pretty well off many upper middle class citizens are beginning to look up and ask, ‘what else?’

WRM has been thinking about this for a long time, though not always as an eventually positive thing.  In the 1980’s he perceived the oncoming wave of change as a potential tragedy.  The competition from low wage countries, from our technical near peers in Europe and Japan, now China, India and elsewhere, along with the equally disruptive changes wrought by automation of all sorts have made the Blue Model unsustainable.  The US Model that was the Beacon of the world from the 1950’s to the end of the century is no more and what comes next can only vaguely be seen. 

The Blue Model was pretty coherently envisioned by the thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th century (socialists, communists, fascists.) In the long run we ended up pretty much where they thought we would.  Unfortunately for their meme we ended up there as the seas of changed washed the foundations out from under the model.

Now we need a new model to strive for as the old one crumbles around us.  I move forward by holding to the desire to leave the world a little richer for my passing, but I have no overweening image of the future, I am afraid that the rate of change of change has overcome the human imagination. 

And perhaps we shouldn’t think in the grand sweeping, dehumanizing sweeps the great thinkers of the last interregnum did.  Maybe we all need to think about things we need to do ourselves and for each other, not to each other.  Maybe we should look to the simple guidance and not grand sweeps:

  • The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
  • My rule: Try and make the world a little better for everyone as you pass.
  • The libertarian rule: Who governs least governs best.
  • Libertarian rule 2:  What does not affect me does not concern me.
  • Murphy’s rule: Keep it simple stupid.

A Couple of Positives| Down with Ethanol! | Up with Capitalism!!!

Corn...worst source of ethanol ever

Corn...worst source of ethanol ever

So the Atlantic says that the Tea Party has ended the ethanol subsidy.  As if! The only thing that has ended is the Tax Credit, the rules about the % of ethanol in gas are still there and probably more important overall.  The basic problem of ethanol being a terrible source of ethanol is not solved.  Apparently we have started shipping some ethanol overseas, I’d like to know how that happened, I suspect other subsidies. 

One problem with subsidy systems like that set up for Ethanol is that they become terrifically difficult to remove.  An entrenched special interest is created and they have a lot more pull than is generated by the general by very dispersed understanding that it’s a waste of money, the guys who know it’s a waste aren’t losing enough individually to make it worth while fighting the long war to overturn the subsidy.  So to a degree the Tea Party may have done good, concentrating the anti vote enough to do something, hopefully they can move on to other subsidies.

<<<Nuf Said on That Topic>>>

A link to Blomberg from the Atlantic lead to this article A Crisis of Leadership, Not a Crisis of Capitalism by Clive Crook :

With the world’s rich economies struggling and the leaders of the European Union intent on making things worse, the gravity of the economic crisis still confronting the West is hard to exaggerate. Nonetheless, it can be done.

According to what I read, we face not just the worst recession since the 1930s, but a challenge to the West’s entire economic order. The Great Recession exposes the poverty of orthodox economics. It constitutes an ideological crisis. It shows that capitalism itself is “fundamentally” flawed. If all this were true, I’d be a lot more worried about the coming year than I am — which is saying something.

A new year’s corrective is in order. Reports of the death of capitalism are greatly exaggerated.

What’s surprising is just how wrong those reports have been. Perhaps, as I write, the revolutionaries are organizing in secret, but I see no signs of a popular uprising.

Did the ancient Myan’s predict the collapse of human civilization in 2012?

There have been a series of Cassandra video’s floating around this year, actually pretty much from the beginning of the internet.  I think the latest one I keep hearing glancing past is Post America or some such.  Ed Driscoll has a piece on the free fall of California that takes a lot of its material from this piece by Victor Davis Hanson then mentions the book After America from which the following comes:

 In ten years’ time, there will be no American Dream, any more than there’s a Greek or Portuguese Dream. In twenty, you’ll be living the American Nightmare, with large tracts of the country reduced to the favelas of Latin America, the rich fleeing for Bermuda or New Zealand or wherever on the planet they can buy a little time, and the rest trapped in the impoverished, violent, diseased ruins of utopian vanity.

“After America”? Yes. It will linger awhile in a twilight existence, arthritic and ineffectual, declining into a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what’s happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past. For a while, there may still be an entity called the “United States,” but it will have fewer stars in the flag, there will be nothing to “unite” it, and it will bear no relation to the republic of limited government the first generation of Americans fought for. And life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be conspicuous by their absence.

I agree that things are ugly for certain segments and geographical subsets of the middle class.  But I do not see a wholesale breakdown of the American dream.  On one side the American Dream has always been time and place focused, on the other I see almost as many positive signs as negative if you look at things from a broader perspective.  Conservatives are always going to lament most changes they see around them and conservatives living hyper conservative lifestyles, (i.e. farmers, lawyers, police, military)  are going to see things going to hell with more poignancy. 

The way I see it we got here because of the sequence of bubbles we have lived through, from the Post Cold War Bubble, Tech Bubble, Internet Bubble, a General Bubble (up to 9/11/01) then the Housing Bubble.  All of this essentially enabled the following: 

  • Pandering to gov’t worker unions
  • venal politicians promising money they had no way of knowing would be there
  • Bankers divorced from personal financial risk taking too many risks
  • Stock investors who should know better always expecting smooth growth
  • Managers looking six months ahead instead of six years ahead
  • Apathetic voters:
    • Voters who vote for the guy who ‘looks’ the best
    • Voters who vote for the guy who promises the most
    • Young folks not voting because they’re working 60hours and playing 40.
    • Middle career folks voting on visceral because their working 60hours and then coming home to another 40 of honey dos
  • One issue voters
    • Old folks voting for their pensions with scant consideration for other issues
    • Gov’t workers voting their pocket book  with scant consideration for other issues.
    • Bee in their bonnet rich folks using referendum to drive through special initiatives with no concern for unintended consequences.
    • Bee in their bonnet single issue political movements who vote gut level issues like abortion or church state separation, lower taxes butleave no room for compromise even when most of the realize that compromise is the only way anything will ever really be done
    • Politicians who gutlessly sign pledges that lock out the possibility of compromise, which was the basis on which the US was established.
  • Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, as the king of Siam famously said

So…what am I saying?

That while I agree with the Cassandra’s that things look very bad this too shall pass, though sadly it’s not certain it will not pass without disorder and death, I expect that the United States will continue to exist for a few more centuries.  The majority of the country understands the general direction we need to go.  This majority does not include the rabid left or the zombie right but it does include many on both sides as well as the middle.

    • A retirement safety net that is much more focused on those in real need at a fraction of the current cost (means tested and not generally available till 75.)
    • A universal retirement savings system that is portable and personally monitored and focused on retiring at 70 only earlier if you have the funds or a real need due to disability.
    • A disability safety net that is probably little changed from today. but any federal mandate has to be funded by block grants from the federal gov’t .
    • Out of work benefits, system probably little changed from today but any federal mandate has to be funded by block grants from the federal govt’
    • Health Coverage:
      • A health insurance safety net focused on kids to 18
      • Universal Health Savings account (not mandatory you use it, not taxed), portable and personally controlled
      • Health insurance available, Insurance companies have to take new people, they can establish different price for different age groups (5 year min span.)  If you sign up as an adult with no prior insurance you will pay a reasonable premium for the first two years (25%)
      • Health cost published by all practitioners on their web pages, visits, shots, etc etc. 
      • Health practitioners are not allowed to charge different groups different prices for the same services.
      • People will pay their own health bills via a Pay Pal or equivalent system.
    • A simple but graduated income tax system without the bands.  I’d propose  simple linear progression from 0% at 10,000 to 20% at  $1 Million. Above $1M ‘income’ is considered capital gains and flat taxed
      • Capital Gains 25%.
      • No exemptions period end of sentence.
      • Special tax deals are special contracts with Department of Treasury / Inland Revenue, which Congress has to sign off on. 
      •  No tax deal can reduce expected tax rate below 10% ever.
    • Restrict the volume of regulations and laws.
      • A whole bunch of restrictions on length and length of effect.
      • You cannot make a regulation ex post facto (after the fact) just like no ex post facto laws restriction in the Constitution.
    • Anti Corruption
      • Congressmen have to put their money in a blind trusts.  No insider trading
      • All donations to all elected officials have to be public record, no restriction on the amount. No privacty for political acts.
      • Special interest groups who target politicians with adds, have to publish their financials and who provided the funds. No privacy rights for political acts.
    • Secrecy Restrictions
      • Debates on laws can be held behind closed doors but a proposed law has to be published on the internet at least ten days before the final vote and no special access for lobbyists etc.
      • Nothing can be held secret for more the 5 years without special and specific reasons agreed to by a committee of the senate and the maximum is 50 years.

  • No program / group above a certain size (10 people, $10 million) can be completely black, it has to have a public face and a public (and honest) reason for existence and its top level budget and basic structure must be public.

    • 5 and only 5 Departments of Executive Gov’t
      • Department of Treasury
      • Department of Defense
      • Department of State
      • Department of the Interior
      • Department of Commerce
      • All other departments shuttered and any necessary functions put in one of the others:
      • All current agencies would fall under one of these departments.  No independent Agencies of Gov’t. But can have an independent board of directors who can act as buffers…&seperate budget line item.
    • Recognize that blanket prohibition never works and establish a new regime for bad drugs including tobacco and alcohol.
    • Get Gov’t out of the marriage business.  Gov’t does care about stable committed partnerships for clear socio-economic reasons but should see it as a contractual issue.  Contract of Family Partnership to replace Marriage License.  Marriages are religious and can be restricted as the religious group sees fit. 

    So OK I got carried away, I’ve cut this list down several times then rebuilt it.  Not sure it’s really coherent but it does reflect my opinion on a number of topics.  I also think it reasonably represents the views of a lot of moderated, be they Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Progressives….I think.  I may find out I am absolutely wrong….but then that would require folks to read this…..sigh.