A favorite author and a man with profound knowledge lays it out for those who want to listen. Those who do not want to hear will not even try.

Monster Hunter Nation

I didn’t want to post about this, because frankly, it is exhausting. I’ve been having this exact same argument for my entire adult life. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I know pretty much exactly every single thing an anti-gun person can say. I’ve heard it over and over, the same old tired stuff, trotted out every single time there is a tragedy on the news that can be milked. Yet, I got sucked in, and I’ve spent the last few days arguing with people who either mean well but are uninformed about gun laws and how guns actually work (who I don’t mind at all), or the willfully ignorant (who I do mind), or the obnoxiously stupid who are completely incapable of any critical thinking deeper than a Facebook meme (them, I can’t stand).

Today’s blog post is going to be aimed at the first group…

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Ike

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Ike and the Generals
By Evan Thomas Published December 16, 2012FoxNews.com

I like Ike more every time I read about him, I seems to me that he may well be the most under rated president of the modern era.  Many will say that he’s remembered for his glory in WWII and that this has covered up the fact that he was past it when it came time to be president and just yucked and golfed his way through eight years with no real threats.  And yet its was this period in the 50’s that was probably the most risky insofar as the chances of nuclear war went, because of Soviet Military Weakness and US Military Arrogance.  Evan Thomas’ argument is that Ike bluffed both sides into quiescence by essentially posing an all or nothing threat over everyone’s head.

Warning, my interpretation of what I’ve read in the above article and elsewhere:  Why would he have had to hold something over the head of his own generals?  Because they had developed their own power base (military industrial complex, remember) and were if not out of control, then out to control the narrative regarding the Red menace and the solution to said menace.  Ike realized that he did not have enough direct control over his generals to stop an accidental or ‘accidental’ escalation from taking place.  So he put forth a strategy of massive retaliation and pulled US forces back to positions where they were not in direct confrontation.  He then supported the technology that would give the president the best and most immediate information about the enemies capabilities and to some extent intentions (spy planes, spy satellites, the NSA etc) so he and future presidents would have the tools to keep the generals flights of fancy (missile gap, bomber gap, etc) in check.   He also started the process of professionalization of the nuclear triad that essentially created a grand strategy / strategic viewpoint that made it harder for high-octane hot heads like Le May etc to become threats to peace and human survival.

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.

And:

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

Also:

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.

The Truth is Out There

I posted on Truth, Fact, Lies and Fiction some weeks ago and I find it very interesting that one of the major progressive/liberal reactions to the Romney trouncing of President Obama is that it was all Lies.  And then the follow-up analysis that yes of course it was lies, see this factoid, that factoid, and this other factoid.

In the big picture though Romney didn’t lie, it is not in his temperament or interest to lie and he’s too smart and too well supported to lie by mistake (and the same can be said for President Obama.)  And all those handy Factoids aren’t lies either.   They are all truths that take one cut through a matrix of facts that are too complex to make into sound bites,  too complex to express in an hour, let alone a few moments and in the end too complex to really ‘know’ the end results of at all.

Anything a politician says can be said to be a lie unless it is so basically simple to parse that it cannot (practically) be a lie.  The statement “The dog licking  my hand is alive.” is pretty damned hard to make into a lie {unless the statement’s made on radio and no one is in the studio to vouch for the dog’s existence…but never-mind that!}  But the statement that ‘My Proposal to cut the tax rate for the top five percent of wage earners will not decrease government tax revenues at all, in fact it may raise them!” is impossible to prove as a fiction or as a fact.

The FACT is that many MODELS of taxation show that tax intake does rise if you decrease the tax rate.  This is because those high earners leave more of their money ‘in play’ in the economy attempting to make more money and thus putting it, and any extra they take in, within reach of the taxman.  Those models are pretty simple and anyone who can and will sit down and think about it will realize almost has to be true in the real world.  That is unless you assume that most money is made in a black market beyond the reach of the taxing authorities, and while that may be true in Russia it is patently not true in America.

Throwing the Liar word around is in my opinion simply lazy character assassination and it has backfired on both the right and the left.  The right has again and again attacked the president as a liar  when any reasonable person would see the situation as one of views and values, this ticks the hardliners off and they start frothing and soon turn a lot of people who originally listened to them off (I have been one of these people though I usually calm down and come back.)  The left has said the same thing about Romney and Ryan, often not overtly (but often very overtly) ever since Romney started moving ahead of the pack because many on the left who had met the man when he was Governor of Massachusetts, Savior of the Olympic games or Head of Bain Capital knew him to be a relentless, effective and innovative person of deep convictions but reasonable temperament.  As has been said elsewhere when Romney was a cartoon cutout the character assassination was effective, when they saw the person in action it was a stunning revelation.  The fact that the left and their enablers in much of the media had made him such a cartoon made the revelation all the more shocking, and all the more damaging to the left and the enablers.

Don’t call a politician a liar because you disagree with him.  He may be mistaken in his beliefs but no politician at the national level can be fool enough to just lie because he thinks everyone else is a bigger fool.

So do politicians never lie? Of course they do.  But Statesmen never lie, right? Of course they do.  Statesmen have to lie more that politicians do, and while it’s usually a bad idea for a politician to lie (shading the truth or dodging being their better and most oft chosen course) it is oddly a bad idea for a Statesman to be truthful all the time (though again shading and dodging are often better choices.)

Statesmen, being very important people who know more than they probably care to, cannot tell all to the people because they know damned well that the truth is ugly, the facts poorly understood and the most basic facts are that life goes on and that good people do bad things and bad people do good things.  None of which changes the truth (in the statesman’s eyes) that they are good people and bad people.

So in some ways I feel that President Obama has to be given a bye on some things that he is called a liar on.  Telling the truth is not always a good option and he could well hurt many more people by telling the ugly truth than he is by dodging, equivocating or occasionally outright lying.  But there are limits to the byes and a limit to the things that can pass as Statesmen’s issues.  And the President seems to be skating to the edge or beyond.  But then, what do I know?  Not enough to judge as yet.

You say that sucks!  And I agree.  But think about what a little incitement based on a stupid and utterly dreadful piece of video-logy did in the Muslim world.  That was truth and fact used in the pursuit of sociopolitical ends by enemies of change and development.  That social reaction was pretty much universal once, the torches and pitchforks came out very quickly.  That is the world where Statesmen of good standing learnt they had to lie in pursuit of a more fair and liberal world.

And that sucks. But that’s the world we live in.

 

What the Hayek?

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

The Road To Serfdom is often referenced and probably like many such books rarely read.  This link goes to a real life Readers Digest version, that seems to hit hard and capture well his central thesis, at least it seems so from the references to his writing.

Its certainly making me think of buying a version either at Half Price books or more likely for Nook.

From the Post Referenced above a few key pieces:

From the preamble:

At that time it was a political philosophy that stood for progress through preserving the Autonomy of the INDIVIDUAL, and the protection of the INDIVIDUAL’S civil liberty. Oddly enough, today “liberalism” equals “socialism.” Equally as odd, conservatism (and in many instances, libertarianism) champions the independence of the individual.

From the first section:

Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

Planning and Power

In order to achieve their ends, the planners must create power – power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires.

And despite the somewhat old fashioned and formal words this should have striking impact because it tells you exactly what is going on today and why so many fear it.  It does not matter that we voted ‘the planners’ into place or that they are bureaucrats subject to dismissal.  We are providing the keys to power and we are then likely to forget about them until they are far too entrenched to remove easily.

It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.

Now this sounds like Communism, Socialism or Fascism not the American way but the truth is that any major part of the social structure-economy in one groups hands creates a massive center of power, privilege and patronage, the 3P’s of tyranny writ small or large.  The 3Ps lead to lawless, corrupt and ineffective organizations.

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect of Christianity for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents. This philosophy, first fully developed during the Renaissance, grew and spread into what we know as Western civilization. The general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which bound him in feudal society.

This is not a theologian’s statement it is a philosopher’s recognition of the Christian-European (unstated but clear) understanding of the centrality of the individual as the basis of societies. That societies are are the emergent organization of many individuals interacting with each other.  And societies that provide ‘room’ for people to find their own level and best place in the social fabric are vastly more fair and kind than ones organized in rigid hierarchies and treat or form the person as an interchangeable cog.

From the post script a quote  from Frédéric Bastiat.:

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents.

Musing during a presidential election year…

Disaster! Panic! Politics! Society! Government! Federal, State and Municipal Finances! Conservatives! Progressives! Libertarians! TeaParty! Occupiers! Obama-Biden! Romney-Ryan!   Truth-subverted!  Facts, obscured!

Its got to be a presidential election year!

Let’s start out with pointing some things out about some definitions:

  • Truth- Is always subjective, tied to the person assessing it and thus subject to that person’s knowledge and understanding of the facts , cultural background, personality, prior experiences, etc.
  • Lie- An untruth and subjective, what is clearly a ‘lie’ to one person may  equally clearly be‘ Truth’ to another.   There is no directionality to the words though it is often assumed, the one promulgating may know it is a lie and the person receiving could receive it as truth, or the opposite.
  • Fact- Is based on the physical world and physical record, is objective and concrete.
  • Fiction is as close as we come to the Lie equivalent to Fact.  But Truth vs Lie is not equivalent to Fact vs Fiction .  Fiction depends on lies (often willingly accepted) whereas Fact does not depend on Truth,  Truth depends on Fact .  Actually a lie can be tied to a fact as easily as truth the only way to distinguish is to analyse other facts about the first one more deeply
  • Accounting- Theoretically the objective, fact based ‘counting’ of sums and valuations.  It can be almost pure arithmetic but when the sums are in computers and the valuations are subjective and relativistic then it becomes something more about Truth than Fact.
  • Finance- Formulating, creating, ‘raising,’ distribution of and ‘payment or rental’ of the discretized units of valuation we call money.
  • Statistics- Numeric / mathematical analysis of distributions and relationships within and between groups of related measurements.

It’s obvious that the past was simpler, in the 19th century even up into the mid 20th century you had a certain number of tons of gold in various repositories around the world.  Finance and accounting were all about arithmetic tied back to those hillocks of gold stashed away under lock and key. We could count the number of ships in our fleets, measure the throw weight of their guns and the length of the coast or sea lane to be protected.  The number of Aristocrats, Plutocrats, Technocrats, Artisans, Storekeepers, Farmers, Workers, Farm Hands, etc and know they would reliably vote one way or another (if there was a vote at all.)   That world was chaotic in the eyes of those who lived in it, to us it looks like a pool of tranquility.

Today we have fiat money (its value is based on the credit of the person, corporation or government issuing it.)  And the money is not in the form of a fixed number of coins or even pieces of paper, its an approximate number based on accounting that is based upon assumptions and approximations of a hundred different variables.   While we know that the US has more firepower than the rest of the world combined we cannot really be sure that provides the level of assurance and protection we need, or if its vastly too much.  The population is far more diverse in what they do and how they perceive themselves in relationship to others now and the fragmentation makes it almost impossible to create a coherent platform for change.

Everything has become political (in the worst sense) because there is no agreed upon foundation of facts and truths.  The only time things get done effectively is when the (till the moment before, unseen) rocks of fact tear the guts out of the ship of state (the municipality goes bankrupt, etc.) So the guys who want to be in charge are always trying to predict the next disaster either to flog their favorite solution or to steer the ship away to keep it going for a few more weeks, months or years.  While most ‘politicians’ are men and women of good faith in their own minds, they also WANT to hear Truth from their own side and Lies from the opposition, and consequently do so.  Most are not able to unravel Facts from Fiction, Truth or Lies because of the complexity, (until the rocks start smashing in the planking.)

So…Panic! Disaster! Despair! Outrage! Fraud! Corruption! Cowardice! On and on, and on…..

So at the end of the day what?  View the recent past in light of what history has to say and pick your poison.  I see that regulation while important cannot run amuck and it is running amuck.  I see that no state can run a deficit forever, and we need to have a long term plan.  I see that there is only so much the state can take out of the pockets of the people and corporations without doing harm (or having to provide a substitute service of some kind) and we are at a decision point, and I do not want a government substitute.  I think that government can only get so large before it distorts the society and market network, and government is definitely at that point and must be reigned in before we become utterly dependent on it.  No government lasts forever, and when it collapses it pulls the society down with it, the US was designed so that ‘the government’ is always in a state of creative destruction, and we – society at large, are able to keep on going.  There are forces (I think emergent from historical and social movement rather than Dr. Big Brain)  at work in the US economy and political class to make the government – more and more rigid, this has to be stopped, and that means less government, less regulation, lighter taxes, and probably more personal risks, and I am ready to accept that trade-off, as are I think most citizens…

And that leads to one last definition:  A citizen is not a legal title in my usage, its an attitude/philosophy.  If you care about the future of the country and want what is best for ‘the country’ and other citizens, understanding that there is no free lunch, no equal outcomes or natural fairness in this world, you are probably a citizen of the US, not just someone who happened to be born lucky.

If it all happens with virtual #’s do you hear the ‘Earth shattering Kabooom’?

Economist blog Free Exchange discussing current Euro(pean) implosion…. A quote “from the International Strategy and Investment Group, explain the political dynamics: Papandreou’s motives are understandable: So far the opposition has provided no support for the measures that he has been forced to push through, and he and his party have been left alone facing the public anger. The opposition’s tactics are in a sense similar to those used by the Portuguese opposition earlier this year. There the opposition forced the government to fall, took over power, and promptly implemented policies very similar to what the previous government was going to do anyway. Papandreou knows that story, and his decision can be interpreted as a refusal to be the victim of the same game.”