Monday, February 29, 2016

Quickies: Parties And Ideologies

     Today, Michael Barone notes a pattern that won’t surprise you:

     Many commentators have noted that the Democrat primary and caucus electorate in the three contests held so far is much more liberal than its counterpart when the Democrats last had a contest eight years ago. That's true: The percentage of liberals among Democratic electorates has increased from 54 percent to 68 percent in the Iowa caucuses, from 57 percent to 68 percent in the New Hampshire primary and from 45 percent to 70 percent in the Nevada caucuses.

     Barone, a cautious and circumspect writer, provides numbers to support his contention. Still, it strikes me as a “dog bites man” story: not newsworthy in the conventional sense of being something the reader wouldn’t otherwise have known. “Democrat == liberal?” Okay, but...isn’t liberalism the Democrat platform? Why would there be Democrats who aren’t liberals? Wouldn’t they belong somewhere else?

     Ordinary people expect a party to be something more than a vote-maximizing machine. The expectation might be incorrect – an institution’s highest priority must be to preserve itself and, after that, to grow – but it’s a natural consequence of political rather than market-style competition. A political position, such as is represented by a political party, is supposed to be ideologically based. That is, it’s supposed to be founded on a set of interlocking values, principles, and convictions, from which its more specific recommendations are derived.

     To me, the notion of a non-ideological political party is inherently contradictory. What would it offer to the electorate? The more photogenic crop of candidates? The richer set? Or perhaps the set with better hair stylists?

     Let us now turn from the Democrats to the Republicans. If the United States has a non-ideological major party, that’s where you’ll find it. “Big tent” nostrums have caused the GOP to embrace so many mutually contradictory positions and their proponents that it’s come to represent approximately nothing. Limited government? Low taxes? A hands-off attitude toward business and commerce? Respect for the right to life? Support for public decency? You’ll find prominent Republicans on every side of each of these, some who’ll espouse one stance in their speeches but when the roll is called will throw their support to the opposite...and a few supposed Republicans who take positions on all of them indistinguishable from the postures of the Democrats.

     It’s as if the GOP lacks a platform, or any common conviction around which its members are united. Perhaps we have an explanation for why the Republican Party can’t seem to produce candidates we can trust to do as they’ve said they would. It would also help to explain the accelerating estrangement of ordinary Americans from the political process.

A witches' cauldron of perversion, betrayal, and the E.U.

I mentioned above that Daniel Cohn-Bendit ["Danny the Red"] and Martine Aubry (along with other Socialists) have written an open letter to Manuel Valls urging him not to stop welcoming refugees. Daniel Cohn-Bendit was the prime instigator and leader of the Socialist/Communist revolt of 1968 that led eventually to a mutation in the values of European society. After 1968, multiculturalism, egalitarianism, open-borders, sexual license, and white guilt became the inexorable goals of the left as it slowly but surely seized power in the media and education. This was also the visible, tangible beginning of a de-Christianization process that would lead to the abandonment of the moral code we had lived by, however imperfectly, for centuries. Cohn-Bendit, openly, gloatingly, pedophile, contemptuous of ordinary people who work for a living, an egomaniac who relishes destroying what better men than he have painstakingly built over the centuries, partners with Martine Aubry, former first secretary of the Socialist Party, mayor of Lille where she has promoted multiculturalism and flies the Algerian flag, daughter of Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission.
There you have it. Somewhere in the above, when you tally it up, you have, all tied up with one bright red bow, the following: multiculturalism, egalitarianism, open-borders, sexual license, white guilt, pedophilia, abandonment of a centuries-old moral code, contempt for ordinary people, egomania, top Socialist Party leadership, allegiance to foreign countries, communism, and, of course, a thread leading to senior E.U. leadership.

"To stem or not to stem the Islamic hordes." By Tiberge, GalliaWatch, 2/27/16 (emphasis added).

Sunday, February 28, 2016

More On NIRP And The War On Cash

     Articles addressing these threats have been multiplying. An increasing number of commentators are treating them as real possibilities rather than fever-dream nightmares.

     Here’s a thoughtful piece from Tyler Durden, which demonstrates en passant why one should not put too much faith in anyone’s forecasts:

     Back in August 2012, when negative interest rates were still merely viewed as sheer monetary lunacy instead of pervasive global monetary reality that has pushed over $6 trillion in global bonds into negative yield territory, the NY Fed mused hypothetically about negative rates and wrote "Be Careful What You Wish For" saying that "if rates go negative, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing will likely be called upon to print a lot more currency as individuals and small businesses substitute cash for at least some of their bank balances."

     Well, maybe not... especially if physical currency is gradually phased out in favor of some digital currency "equivalent" as so many "erudite economists" and corporate media have suggested recently, for the simple reason that in a world of negative rates, physical currency - just like physical gold - provides a convenient loophole to the financial repression of keeping one's savings in digital form in a bank where said savings are taxed at -0.1%, or -1% or -10% or more per year by a central bank and government both hoping to force consumers to spend instead of save.

     For now cash is still legal, and NIRP - while a reality for the banks - has yet to be fully passed on to depositors.

     The bigger problem is that in all countries that have launched NIRP, instead of forcing spending precisely the opposite has happened: as we showed last October, when Bank of America looked at savings patterns in European nations with NIRP, instead of facilitating spending, what has happened is precisely the opposite: "as the BIS have highlighted, ultra-low rates may perversely be driving a greater propensity for consumers to save as retirement income becomes more uncertain."

     Please read the whole thing. Once again, people’s responses to changes in economic and fiscal policies have baffled the “planners.” It’s a reminder that no one should be certain that he sees – or feels – all the incentives that apply to a given context.

     Now, Europe and Japan are not the United States. It’s quite possible that Americans’ response to the imposition of NIRP would be different. What seems assured is that we wouldn’t passively accept the new monetary regime without at all changing how we store and handle our wealth.

     This is highly relevant to the accelerating disaffiliation, among ordinary Americans, from the political system and the laws and policies promulgated by our political class.

     I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve cited this supremely important observation from the late Benjamin M. Anderson:

     There is no need in human life so great as that men should trust one another and should trust their government, should believe in promises, and should keep promises in order that future promises may be believed in and in order that confident cooperation may be possible. Good faith -- personal, national, and international -- is the first prerequisite of decent living, of the steady going on of industry, of governmental financial strength, and of international peace.

     Among the seemingly irrefutable facts of our time is that trust is everywhere declining. Trust in large institutions – emphatically including governments – is at what might be an all-time low for the era of recorded human history. It behooves us to try to grasp why.

     When I wrote in 2009 that:

  • Our military is being emasculated as we speak, with funding cuts to deprive it of men and machines, and legal entanglements to ensure that no soldier in the field can ever be certain that he won't be tried for murder by civilians, or worse, by foreigners.
  • Our alliances are faltering as no one ever expected, as our chief executive kowtows to the worst men in the world and fails to uphold America's actions in its own interest.
  • Our politicians are interested solely in getting elected and staying in office, and will do anything, sacrifice anyone, and betray any principle of right, to achieve those goals.
  • Our economy is being bled to death by layer after layer of taxation, regulation, legal mandates, and outright nationalizations, nearly all intended to benefit some provincial interest some gaggle of politicians counts on for support.
  • Our currency has been so debased that the other nations of the world, fooled over the decades into accepting mountains of it for their wares, are getting ready to write it off.
  • Our schools have become cesspits of socialist indoctrination and multicultural propaganda, where a child saying grace over his lunch is subject to harassment as a bigot.
  • Our cities and communities are weakening under the assaults of illegal immigration, eminent-domain attacks on property rights, forced injection of "refugees" who hate America and all it stands for, and the use of insane lawsuits to prevent development in the name of "saving the planet."
  • Our churches -- the ones that still respect God and value freedom -- are steadily being muzzled by the moral and cultural relativists, the "inclusionists," and the Muslims.
  • Our women are largely persuaded that killing an unborn baby constitutes a "woman's right" and a "safe medical procedure."
  • Our arts have become unfathomably vile.
  • Every right we have is under sustained, determined assault.
  • Our people are losing faith in one another, in themselves, in their futures, and the futures of their children.

     Things were already pretty bad. Here we are, six and a half years further down history’s road. Would anyone care to claim that they’re better?

     Trust is the consequence of prior experiences: specifically, the fulfillment of promises, guarantees, and predictions. Smith, unless he’s a total moron, would not trust Jones on the basis of zero prior acquaintance. Few Smiths would trust Jones on a serious matter – that is, a matter pertinent to Smith’s well-being or security – unless Jones had already accumulated a record of good performance. And no Smith who belongs anywhere but a sanatorium would trust Jones had Jones accumulated a record of poor performance: inaccurate forecasts, failures, and betrayals.

     Poor performance is the hallmark of governments in our time. They exhibit all three kinds:

  • Forecasts that turn out to be wildly wrong;
  • Failures to perform as promised;
  • Outright betrayals of trust.

     This is especially the case in economic and fiscal matters.

     From March 1933 onward, the federal government has done nothing but steal value from the dollar. Over the eighty-three years since then, a pound loaf of bread of good quality has gone from $0.10 retail to over $4.00 in most metropolitan areas. That’s not because of a shortage of wheat flour, ovens, or bakers.

     Now and then we’ve been told about policy changes to “strengthen” the dollar. Such “strengthenings” have always been strictly relative to the currencies of other nations. Governments cannot create value. They can only consume it.

     Trends in the financial markets are never infinite. (“Trees do not grow to the sky.” – Baron Philippe de Rothschild) They will always come to an end. However, trends in political motivations can be relied upon...and the motivation of governments is always to steal.

     Not one of the economic or fiscal developments of the last thirty years has conduced to greater prosperity for Americans. Not one points to a brighter future for our descendants. Perhaps worst of all, few of us believe that a “change of regime,” such as the one that will nominally occur on January 20, 2017, will improve matters. Our trust in the words, intentions, and deeds of politicians is gone.

     Yet, with personal attention to our circumstances and the exercise of prudent, well thought out efforts, many Americans have endeavored to secure their personal and familial situations against the dark tides they foresee. Many of those efforts went to securing our wealth and our ability to ride out a financial storm. Ann Barnhardt and others have exhorted us to back away from the existing financial system in all its manifestations. Some Americans have heeded that advice in its entirety; others only partway.

     Some, but not nearly a majority. The great majority of us are still exposed to political and financial predation. Some disbelieve the prognostications of calamity. Others feel they have no alternative but to remain in the system. Still others are betting that by dint of careful timing, they’ll be able to profit from whatever might develop.

     How would you, Gentle Reader, endeavor to protect your savings if they were made wholly electronic or promissory – that is, if they could not be converted into a tangible form? Given that the demand for physical gold and silver is already so high that delivery delays now average three months, what would you expect if, say a year from now, the $100 bill were entirely out of circulation and American banks had followed Europe and Japan into negative-interest-rate territory? Can you imagine being able to acquire the money metals at any price in non-material currency?

     More critically: Would you repose your trust in an entity that to continue in existence must feed upon the value you create, if it moved toward such a situation?

     Today, the esteemed Glenn Reynolds cites a Peggy Noonan column of considerable insight:

     There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

     The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

     I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

     They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

     Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

     Noonan might be late to the party, but she’s correct nevertheless. The “protected” – the political elites and those “connected” who can shelter under their wings – might imagine that they can destroy cash, impose NIRP, and somehow not suffer along with the rest of us. After all, they’ve imposed so many shackles and depredations on us “unprotected” ones, and as Noonan indicates, have managed to evade the consequences. But destroying the money is a quite different kettle of fish.

     The destruction of our money will involve the final destruction of general trust, for as David Friedman has written, there are only three ways people can interact:

  • Love,
  • Trade,
  • Force.

     Without a trustworthy medium of exchange, trade will be impossible, and the “unprotected” surely won’t feed, clothe, and house the “protected” out of love. Perhaps what would ultimately come of that would be better than what we endure today. But it wouldn’t be guaranteed to get here quickly.

     It’s time for all Americans to look to their defenses: to their larders, to their savings, to their armaments, and to the reliability of their relatives, friends, and neighbors. As Tyler Durden notes in the article cited in the opening segment, you don’t want to be the last to panic:

     And then this from "Demand For Big Bills Soars As Japan Stuffs Safes With 10,000-Yen Notes":
     “Demand for 10,000-yen bills is steadily rising in Japan, even as the nation’s population falls and the use of credit cards and other forms of electronic payment increases,” Bloomberg writes. “While more cash might sound like a good thing, some economists are concerned that it shows Japanese households are squirreling away money at home instead of investing it or putting it into bank accounts -- where it can make its way back into the financial system and be put to productive use.”

     One safe maker who spoke to Bloomberg said safe shipments have doubled over the last six months. While part of the demand for safes is likely attributable to the country's new "My Number" initiative, "the negative-rate policy is likely to intensify the preference of Japanese households to keep cash at home,” Hideo Kumano, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute said. “Overall, the trend of more cash at home reflects concern about the outlook for economy among households. This isn’t a good thing.

     No it isn't, and not because of concern about the outlook for the Japanese economy: that had no chance long before Abe and Kuroda came on the scene, mostly as a result of Japan's demographic spiral of doomed.

     "It isn't a good thing" because it confirms that the global run on physical cash - as much as the bankers of the world would like to keep it under wraps - has begun, and as the chart above shows, in a fractionally-reserved world in which there are $10 in savers' claims for every $1 in physical currency, it quite literally pays to panic first, as the 9 out of 10 people who panic after the first one, will be stuck with nothing.

     Verbum sat sapienti.

Total Republican failure.

Voter were beginning to understand Republican failure, surrender, and co-optation before the Tea Party came upon the scene. For me, it became obvious upon detecting the silence of the grave as Republicans gained majorities in Congress in 2014 and just stood there in place like an ox chewing grass.

They acted like – and were – chumps when they later got around to play acting over shutting down the government. Despite much data from the past on likely Democrat tactics, they had no response prepared for when the Obama had Park Rangers threaten to make looking at mountains in Yellowstone Park a major felony.

Dems can come up with political videos where old women are thrown off a cliff but not a dime of the Republican war chest could be found to pay a political PR firm to punch back in any way. Where was Reince Priebus's inner Lee Atwater?

Anyway, here's what David Stockman has by way of a bill of particulars where Republican failure is concerned:

Yet after decades in Washington they and most of their Senate colleagues have accomplished nothing that resembles the old Republican verities. In fact, during 2000-2006 when Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House, not a single welfare state program or agency was eliminated or even reformed, while vast new expansions of education, Medicare, agriculture, alternative energy subsides and much more were piled on the pre-existing heap of state.

Accordingly, the Federal spending share of GDP grew faster than at any time in history; and the $4 trillion worth of new national debt incurred during the eight Bush years smashed all prior peacetime records.

* * * *

In all, the GOP establishment has become an integral part of the Washington ruling class. It has no passion——only lip service—–for the anti-Washington predicate on which the party was founded.

Stockman doesn't spare the Democrats but he's described the gutlessness of the Republicans very well. If he would desist from using the word "bombast" where Trump is concerned he could have cut the word count of his essay in half but it's worth reading and is one of many that are coming out that point out the obvious – the curious nonfeasance of the Republicans.

I don't know if it's Ann Coulter who keeps saying that such and such a politician is paralyzed because someone's got the naked pictures. Whatever wit came up with that it seems to me to capture the odd fact of political life where we have two ostensibly antagonistic political parties but, in fact, they are Siamese twins separated yesterday.

For years we thought the Republicans were like a stick of dynamite ready to explode into action in just a day or two more, maybe a week at most. Bang, kapow, thank you Jesus! But it was just never, ever to be. Every darn time it was, to borrow a term from artillerymen and mortarmen, a hang fire. The lanyard got pulled or the round got dropped down the tube but . . . nothing. A dented primer and no flash, no bang.

Stockman understands that Trump has figured out that a boatload of people got sick and tired of a "Groundhog's Day" that's dragged on for 35 years.

"The Donald—–The Good And Bad Of It." By David Stockman, Contra Corner, 2/27/16 (emphasis added).

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quickies: Concentrations Of Influence

     Americans are justly suspicious of concentrations of power – more of us remember the “separation of powers” effect of the Constitution than the limiting of powers by enumeration it was intended to provide – but we might not be suspicious enough of concentrations of influence.

     Despite conservatives’ general disdain for the Old Media and preference for the new, digitally-enabled alternatives, we seldom ponder the concentration of the influences behind those alternatives. This article suggests that we give the matter some thought. It focuses first on Google, by far the most popular of the Internet search engines:

     The Google search engine is so good and so popular that the company’s name is now a commonly used verb in languages around the world.... Google has become the main gateway to virtually all knowledge, mainly because the search engine is so good at giving us exactly the information we are looking for, almost instantly and almost always in the first position of the list it shows us after we launch our search – the list of ‘search results’.

     That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages, even though they often number in the thousands, which means they probably contain lots of good information. Google decides which of the billions of web pages it is going to include in our search results, and it also decides how to rank them. How it decides these things is a deep, dark secret – one of the best-kept secrets in the world, like the formula for Coca-Cola.

     Google’s algorithms for search and presentation order, therefore, steer the attention of Internet users in a centralized, concentrated fashion. Does this have a pernicious effect on what people know...or think they know? Author Robert Epstein fears that it might, particularly with regard to elections:

     In most countries, 90 per cent of online search is conducted on Google, which gives the company even more power to flip elections than it has in the US and, with internet penetration increasing rapidly worldwide, this power is growing. In our PNAS article, Robertson and I calculated that Google now has the power to flip upwards of 25 per cent of the national elections in the world with no one knowing this is occurring. In fact, we estimate that, with or without deliberate planning on the part of company executives, Google’s search rankings have been impacting elections for years, with growing impact each year. And because search rankings are ephemeral, they leave no paper trail, which gives the company complete deniability.

     Various commentators have cast a suspicious eye at Google before, of course. If the problem is real, it’s a stiff one. The magnitude of capital investment and degree of technological prowess required to compete with Google is enormous. You’d have a better shot at cutting into General Motors' market for cars. That naturally limits the possibilities for competing with it.

     I find it noteworthy that Google’s only significant competitor in the search business is Microsoft’s Bing. That’s a gauge of how big one must be to compete in the search-engine market. It’s also a measure of the importance concentrations of both information and access to information can have to our perceptions and beliefs...and how utterly invisible those influences have become.

Quickies: An Alternate Interpretation

     This poignant Ben Stein article about fatherlessness is worth your time to read and digest in its entirety. However, I have a specific snippet in mind that struck me with unusual force:

     What happened? Blacks used to live lives not that different from whites in terms of law and order and family and then it all fell apart starting in the early sixties.

     Was it drugs? Maybe. Drugs are poison to morals. Maybe it was the welfare system that paid women to be pregnant and unmarried. In many states in America, a single mother with three children and no husband gets paid as much in welfare as a starting computer programmer or teacher. You usually get what you pay for. [Emphasis added by FWP]

     In its most common applications, “You get what you pay for” is an observation that quality often correlates extremely strongly with price: that the item that costs twice as much will provide so much more satisfaction and durability than its cheaper competitor that over time it will prove to be the better bargain. Going for the lowest price, apart from all other considerations, often constitutes a self-wounding error.

     That’s not what Stein is saying in the above. Rather, he’s reminding us that when a price is offered for some good, service, or behavior, that item, regardless of its intrinsic properties, becomes marketable – saleable. Damon Knight’s satirical 1963 short story “The Big Pat Boom” provides a humorous lesson about that effect.

     Since 1935, the United States has paid women to have illegitimate children. That wasn’t the intent of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), but it was the effect. Indeed, the inducement was so strong that it shattered a great many existing families, driving the father out of the home in the quest for increased AFDC payments.

     Children, especially boys, who grow up in an environment devoid of a father are especially prone to violent and otherwise antisocial behavior. Today, more than 70% of black children grow up in such homes. Given the relativistic non-standards for behavior that prevail, is it any wonder that young black men are the perpetrators of so much violent crime?

     However, I must note that roughly 30% of white children grow up fatherless, as well. That figure produces roughly twice as many fatherless white children as fatherless black children, allowing for differences in fertility rates. However, public statistics don’t yet show a comparable increase in violent crimes perpetrated by young white men. So there’s probably more going on here than the economic incentives can account for.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Just How Bad Is It?

     I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

     We know things are bad — worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'

     [From Paddy Chayevsky’s screenplay for Network]

     The above is one of the most memorable passages from Chayevsky’s Oscar-winning screenplay. I’ve used it before, of course. Despite being off-target in a couple of specifics, it’s quite applicable to conditions around us.

     I wrote yesterday about the secrecy dynamic that’s turned “us against them” from a suspicion to a certainty. Time was, adult Americans would occasionally be heard to use the phrase “our government.” You don’t hear that any more. Nor do you hear ordinary Americans expressing a conviction that government will “get us out of this.”

     Things are bad. How bad is the question of the hour.

     A metric for something like socio-economic and political quality is a hard thing to compose. It will always lack the simplicity of a scalar quantity. Moreover, the weighting of the various factors will always be a matter of opinion. Despite that, there are approaches to it that will draw the assent of most persons.

     Among the elements that make such comparisons plausible, perhaps the most important is the selection of a base year, whose conditions can be compared, item by item, with those of the present day. My preferred base year is 1964: the first full year of the Lyndon Johnson Administration.

     I could present a good case that 1964 was the best year America has ever had:

  1. The national economy was roaring.
  2. There was little to no social or political unrest.
  3. The surveillance society hadn’t yet been germinated.
  4. The racial disturbances and “summer of love” nonsense were still to come.
  5. Urban areas were still relatively safe, despite the slow emergence of the drug plague.
  6. There wasn’t yet a “social justice” movement, and “political correctness” had not yet hatched.

     It’s true that only a year more was required to turn much of that idyllic tableau upside down. There were already some harbingers of darkness, such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan would later delineate in his famous “Defining Deviancy Down” essay. Nevertheless, 1964 was a very good year for America and Americans.

     Now let’s look at 2016:

  1. The national economy is faltering and might have been permanently crippled.
  2. Social and political unrest are everywhere.
  3. The surveillance society is in full swing.
  4. Racial disturbances are common, and prominent politicians often excuse and defend the perpetrators.
  5. Urban areas are categorically unsafe.
  6. “Social justice” and “political correctness” have acquired a quasi-authority used to squelch free expression.

     By all the standards that I used to classify 1964 as a good year for America, 2016 is worse. Indeed, item by item 2016 is much worse. Moreover, the collapse of America’s educational system, the permeability of its borders, and the deterioration of its international standing should be considered as well.

     There have been years since 1964 when one or two of the items in those lists were far better than they are today. For example, the economy of the Eighties was excellent, as was America’s international influence. Racial tensions abated to a considerable degree during the late Nineties and early Naughts. However, no year since 1964 presents a picture that’s item-for-item superior to my base year. As for 2016, America of today presents a picture of a society in a sharp, possibly irreversible decline.

     Things are bad enough that there’s talk of secession, of massive civil disobedience, even of revolution. Trust in government and the political system has evaporated. Police forces and other law enforcement agencies are viewed with increasing suspicion – often a fully justified suspicion. People are building disaster stockpiles. Middle class men are arming themselves and banding into cadres for the defense of their neighborhoods against an anticipated wave of racial and ethnic violence. Women are becoming fearful of being alone in public. Parents of minor children seldom allow them to be alone outside the family home.

     That’s how bad it is.

     "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
     But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

     [Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II]

     I’ve been seeing the following sticker in an increasing number of venues:

     There’s a lot of truth in that. Yet the problems delineated above aren’t all soluble in gunpowder. We have surrendered meekly to several of our most difficult problems, as if we individual Americans had no responsibility for taking part in their correction.

     Consider the collapse of American education. This is a multi-pronged problem, to be sure, but at one level – the government-run “public schools” – local control was once a reality. Yet American parents, the very people who should have stood firm against the removal of that control, acquiesced to its loss. That loss is the principal cause of the dilution of the schools’ educational mission. Don’t take my word for it; study the history of special-interest intrusion into primary and secondary education and decide for yourself.

     A related problem, the explosion of real-estate taxes to the extent that they often exceed the mortgage payment, is another case. Those taxes are set by school boards, town, and county governments, all of which are directly within the control of the localities they albatross. Where were the voters who had it in their power to “throw the rascals out” and install a fresh, hopefully better set? The majority of them didn’t even bother to show up at the polls.

     Those things, and others I’m sure any Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch can enumerate, were within Americans’ control. We simply failed to control them.

     There is no Last Graf. Things are bad. They might not be reparable by peaceful means. That often unarticulated sense is what propels the burgeoning disaster stockpiles, the accelerated purchases of arms and ammunition, and the informal neighborhood-defense militias. It also animates a great deal of conservative sentiment as it’s expressed on the Web.

     Of one thing I am certain: the political system as it stands, having been massaged over the decades into a servant of the interests of political elite against those of the citizenry, will be of little use to us in correcting our social, economic, and political maladies. More will be required of us. It was not always so, but then, this is 2016: a year the Founding Fathers would surely look upon with sadness.

And you won't have anything to laugh about.

This young woman is eloquent and dignified but she makes it clear that Germany's Muslim invaders are a repellent presence and that the government does nothing to deal with it. Native Germans are invisible to their own government.

In her quiet way she is making it clear that Merkel has one last, narrow window of opportunity to wake up and reverse her hideous policies that will be the ruin of Germany. She raises the possibility that Germans will take matters into their own hands. Then it won't be so funny.

This is her elegantly-delivered "Pretty please with sugar on top" request depicted in the in the movie "Pulp Fiction" where Winston Wolfe confronts Vincent Vega who thinks Wolfe is insufficiently polite.

Note that Facebook disabled the account where this woman's video first appeared. Facebook deserves our contempt as does the German government which either requested or condoned it. Merkel is dishonest and sick. There is no way that that she or her government can redeem themselves.

Paradigm shift.

What we are witnessing is not a momentary setback for the current order, we are witnessing a paradigm shift on par with the fall of Rome, the end of the Feudal era, the beginning of the Enlightenment, and the end of Communism. We are witnessing the death of system of thought which has been dominant in the Western world of the last three centuries. Liberalism is losing legitimacy. It is losing legitimacy because Liberal regimes can no longer defend their borders, win their wars, pay their debts, or protect their citizens.
"History Isn't Over." By Henry Köselitz, Radix, 2/6/16.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

You Can’t Ponder Social Pathologies...

     ...without simultaneously being struck by their correlations with race, ethnicity, and identity.

     In a recent article, John Derbyshire considered at some length whether those three conceptions, which are interrelated in ways both obvious and subtle, are relevant to the question: What does it mean to be an American?

     The article is too rich with important observations for me to do it violence by pulling any of its meatier bits free of their context. It deserves your undivided attention from top to bottom. However, one early passage strikes me as excerpt-able: Derbyshire’s probe of whether America is a “proposition nation:”

     Suppose I were to trek up into the highlands of Ethiopia, get myself invited into the hut of some illiterate Amhara goatherd, and explain our founding documents to him; and suppose he were to respond with enthusiastic agreement. Did he thereby instantly become an American?

     Conversely, here is a U.S. citizen every one of whose forebears arrived here before the Revolution, and whose male forebears fought with distinction in our country’s wars. He strongly disagrees with the principles of the Founders, and would have preferred we become a Christian theocracy. Should he be stripped of his citizenship?

     I regard this as important because it bears on the frequently derided concept of an American culture.

     Take that Ethiopian goatherd and drop him into Nebraska, perhaps on the outskirts of Lincoln. (Yes, he can bring his goats.) Would he be able to survive, much less flourish? More important yet: Would he abide by the behavioral norms, positive and negative, that characterize the American culture:

  • The legal “thou shalt nots:” no murder, theft, fraud, perjury, false accusations.
  • The cultural “thou shalts:” public decency; a certain minimum of neighborliness; adherence to the rules of civilized behavior in public accommodations (e.g., a grocery store).

     Note that the advocate for a Christian theocracy would have no problem with any of that. He’s a product of the American culture, having absorbed it from birth. Would our Ethiopian goatherd pick it up in time to avoid being jailed or lynched?

     The social pathologies of our era derive from the rejection of the American culture, as summarized above. That rejection correlates powerfully with race, ethnicity, and identity:

  • The preponderance of violent crimes and crimes against property are committed by Negroes.
  • Exclaves where American law is not honored are dominated by Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and African immigrants.
  • Persons who identify as other than American account for a great deal of the tension and disorder in our cities.

     The most important contrast here is between the above-named groups and the Eastern European immigrant waves of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Those persons arrived knowing only that they were leaving their homelands. They knew little about America; many believed much that was not so. They had little or no acquaintance with the Christian-Enlightenment heritage upon which America is based. Yet they assimilated swiftly, became sound, law-abiding citizens, and flourished.

     They were powerfully influenced by the institutions of the time, especially the public schools, which had as a principal mission the assimilation of immigrant children. They were not accommodated in maintaining the cultures from which they came:

  • They were expected to learn English.
  • They were expected to abide by American laws and customs.
  • They were expected to transfer their allegiance to the United States.

     Those late 19th and early 20th Century Eastern European and Asian immigrants did all those things. They didn’t even regard them as impositions. Yet today we make excuses for rapists and molesters on the grounds of their “culture.” We condone riots in our cities because of “the legacy of slavery.” We refrain from criticizing the practices of any culture, preferring to treat all as “equally valid.” If there’s any single development that underlines how far into reverse we’ve gone, it’s this: Instead of expecting the residents of the United States to speak, read, and write English, our governments print their official publications in more than90 different languages.

     There’s a lot that needs explaining here...and part of the explanation must derive from race, ethnicity, and identity as those things bear upon resistance to cultural assimilation.

     I maintain that you cannot function as an American – i.e., as a self-supporting member of American society, free to navigate through it at will, whose fear of the law cuts off roughly at the traffic and zoning ordinances – unless you adopt – assimilate to – the American culture. Yet we allow designated minorities to flout their active rejection of the laws and customs of that culture. We admit thousands of persons each month who neither understand the American culture, nor want to become a part of it, nor respect it enough even to pay lip service to its norms. And we passively tolerate their construction of exclaves in which an American, as implicitly defined here, would be unwelcome at best.


The Secrecy Syndrome

     To gauge from the Liberty’s Torch email-bag, something I wrote yesterday has struck a nerve, specifically this:

     Just as governments strive to do everything in secret, they strive with equal fervor to eliminate the privacy of their subjects.

     One correspondent pointed me to this article:

     Rather than ameliorate the situation, those in power have doubled down on the stupid. In what only can be described as a move of sheer brilliance, the Virginia Senate has already passed a bill to keep police officer’s names confidential. To my knowledge there is no state or national precedent for this, at least here in the U.S. Clearly precedents exist in such democratic strongholds such as East Germany, pre-1945 Germany, post-Czar Russia, Democratic Republic of China, Iran, and virtually every African country since the 1950’s.

     The issues are obvious. The potential for abuse becomes astronomically higher. It very nearly incentivizes lawless behavior from law enforcement....Becoming an anonymous badge removes an important impetus for morality and legal behavior. The Milgram experiment makes this point abundantly clear. Make the individual anonymous, put them in a room with an authority figure, and watch the magic happen. I have no doubt this correlates closely with the various threats and cries for the identity of Levoy Finicum’s shooter in Oregon. Like all things, it will be done in the name of safety, ‘for the children’ and wives of law enforcement and take us yet one step closer to the gaping maw of tyranny.

     Even in states without such legislation on the books, it can be extremely difficult to determine the identities of the badge holders. Indeed, as governments at all levels strain to expand their coercive powers – often by arming bureaucrats – they intensify their efforts to “protect” the identities of those who are sent out to wield “lawful authority.”

     Ponder that for a moment while I fetch more coffee.

     The attack on citizens’ privacy has been a headline item for quite some time. The Snowden revelations about the NSA’s wide-spectrum capture of cell phone and Internet traffic were only the most dramatic of the lot. The “Stingray” cell phone interceptor disclosures have commanded quite a bit of attention, as have the FBI’s recent efforts to coerce Apple into unlocking cell phones.

     The ATF’s “Fast and Furious” operation was intended to compel gun dealers to report multiple-gun transactions, in the name of preventing “straw purchases” of firearms for illegal purposes. Look how well that worked out. Several states now require the reporting of anyone who makes a bulk purchase of ammunition, under a similar rationale.

     Being married to an accountant makes me privy to certain other invasions of our privacy. We all know that financial institutions are compelled by law and regulation to report all the details on cash transactions above $5000, but did you know that the IRS requires professional tax return preparers who file electronically to register their computers with the IRS?

     Mind you, the IRS requires this in the name of “protecting taxpayer information.” But who – or what – has been responsible for the illegal disclosure of taxpayer information? Wasn’t it the IRS itself?

     For those of us who employ gold and silver as inflation hedges, the news is equally disturbing: Coin and bullion dealers must report all transactions over certain thresholds. Your hard-asset hoard might not be as private as you’ve thought.

     Remarkable how the government can screw up royally, then lay the penalties for the screwup on wholly uninvolved private citizens, isn’t it?

     Low intentions go hand in hand with a desire for secrecy. That’s so obvious it doesn’t require an explanation. The desire to penetrate the privacy of others kicks in when the holder of those low intentions is a government agency.

     Many are the areas of human activity where governments seek to pierce our privacy. However, their concentration will always be on those things that support the free action of private citizens:

  • Weaponry;
  • Communications;
  • Money.

     The citizenry can resist State coercion, if it has the resources with which to educate itself, acquire arms, and organize for resistance. But to be effective, resistance must be directed at the proper targets: i.e., those that seek to shackle us. A spirit of resistance that remains merely a targetless desire not to be coerced has very little prospect for success over the long term. As the saying goes, no one ever won a war by playing defense.

     When the State succeeds in penetrating the privacy of the citizen, it forearms itself against efforts to resist it. If it can shield the identities and activities of its own agents, it is largely immunized against counterattack. Under a regime that succeeds at both those things, there is very little prospect for freedom.

     The 88,000 governments – federal, state, county, municipal, and local – in these United States have proved adept at both tasks. In aggregate, they employ many millions of persons and spend more than $6 trillion per year. The most important details of our lives are laid bare to them. Yet, except for the half-million officials we elect to those governments, we know almost nothing about those who claim to act under their authority.

     It’s appallingly clear that a secret law is an instrument of tyranny, intolerable on its face. Why isn’t it equally clear that secret law enforcers are tyrants in their own right?

     Think about it.

The high cost of denial.

Under a strict, unregulated open market, Lufthansa would have dropped Lubitz [its suicidal pilot] like a hot potato after he dropped out of flight school because of raging depression and certainly after he forged a clean bill of mental health on an FAA form. But if they tried that in today’s society, they would run up against all kinds of rules: medical confidentiality; rights of mental health patients; civil lawsuits for discrimination.

And in that last one is the real reason for the Lufthansa 9525 tragedy: we are so afraid of discrimination that we tie our own hands against real threats.

I have infinite sympathy for Lubitz. Paranoid visualizations, hallucinations and crippling psychotic depression cannot be anything but misery. I do not know how to treat him. I know however that someone in that unstable state should not be responsible for the health and safety of others.

We see the high cost of tolerance in other areas too. We cannot notice that the Third World people have different abilities and inclinations than ours, or that their need is not to come here, but to improve There. We cannot point out that most people are selfish and short-sighted and so democracy is a failure.

Equality, tolerance, non-discrimination and the rest were sold to us as “harmless.” How true is that? Like the shattered remnants of Flight 9525, our society lies shattered on a mountain,

"The high cost of denial, mental health edition." By Brett Stevens, Amerika, date uncertain, probably c. 2/25/16.

Merkel's "declaration of moral bankruptcy."

H/t: Russia Insider.

Rush Limbaugh on where we are and the futility of trying to "work with" radical, sellout Democrats.

[Voters are] not taking the time to ask if [Trump] really means it [about building a wall and deporting illegals]. They've already decided that he does. It's that important to a lot of people. It's about preserving a distinct American culture which is under assault, which is under siege. And it's being brought to us by the Democrat Party, which is trying to register all kinds of new voters all the time 'cause they need a permanent underclass of people incapable of taking care of themselves, incapable of providing for themselves who will always be counted on to vote Democrat to be taken care of.

And under these circumstances, people scratch their heads to this day and cannot understand why a single Republican would ever sign on to this. And if you want to know what happens to Republicans that do, the name is Jeb Bush. A hundred million dollars, and it may actually be $115 million could not erase the baggage that Jeb Bush was carrying around, that people assumed he was for amnesty. It's that simple. That's what happens. That's where we are.

And on the establishment in the Republican and Democrat parties:
Their attitude is not, "You know what? The American people really don't want this. We better modify this." That's not it at all. That doesn't permeate the establishment mind. If you don't support what they want, you have to be taken care of, you have to be defeated, you have to be rendered irrelevant, you have to be cast aside, whatever. It's that polarizing an issue and nothing's changed on it.
And this is the clincher from Rush:
We're on the cusp of losing the country.

[Big, big snip]

. . . This is for keeps! This isn't about unifying, getting along [with the left]. They're not interested in it -- and what do you want to get along with 'em over? What about their agenda do you want to embrace?

"MUST HEAR!!! Rush Blows the Lights Out in the Final Hour! What This Election Is Really About and What's Really at Stake." The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/23/16.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The War On Cash: A Further Look At The Dynamic

     At the 1987 California State Libertarian Party convention, legendary Austrian economist Murray Rothbard was asked for his opinion of the then-current discussions about making all paper currency digitally readable and writable. Dr. Rothbard immediately zeroed in on the underlying intention: the effective elimination of cash.

     Say what? But isn’t paper currency “cash?” It’s what we use in routine, day-to-day transactions, without the need for an intermediating financial institution to perform the transfer. How would it cease to be “cash” if it merely became possible to write a readable transaction trail onto it?

     Dr. Rothbard noted that one fundamental property of cash is its anonymity. A medium of exchange that carries a record with it is the reverse of anonymous: it can be made to testify to where it’s been and for what it was used. Once all currency was so equipped, the federal government could mandate that all new “cash registers” be equipped with the technology to write and read the embedded record. Then as now, the rationale was “to impede criminals,” especially drug dealers.

     Furthermore, such currency would have a built-in invalidation period. When the embedded record was full, such that no additional transactions could be recorded on it, the holder would be required to exchange it for a fresh note at an authorized facility. Thus, the government’s control of all financial transactions would be ironclad, impossible to escape.

     That was 1987, Gentle Reader. Before the civilian-accessible Internet. Mobile phones were analog only; cell phones were still being developed. The “PDA” was a pathetically limited item, no more than a digital notepad. And the writing was already on the wall.

     Just as governments strive to do everything in secret, they strive with equal fervor to eliminate the privacy of their subjects.

     Privacy – alternately, anonymity – is what makes it possible for Smith and Jones to transact without the State knowing about it. It makes it possible for Smith to keep all knowledge of his liquid assets to himself. Cash of the traditional, impossible-to-trace sort facilitates the export of one’s wealth to a place far from the State’s reach. That’s why the federal government has imposed export controls on American currency. God help you if you’re discovered trying to leave the U.S. with a large amount of cash; you’ll be treated more roughly than any suspected terrorist.

     Today’s First World countries are heavily festooned with monitoring devices: cameras, microphones, cell-phone-tracking systems, taps on Internet backbone traffic, and so forth. Micro-seismic detectors listen to the rumble in our streets. Satellites equipped with optics of phenomenal resolution watch us from orbit. Everywhere we go, we’re identified, traced, and followed by the all-seeing eyes of the Omnipotent State. Only in our hand-to-hand dealings in the most cloistered of locales do we enjoy any privacy at all. Is it any wonder that those who worship power are so determined to deny all possibility of financial privacy to us who want only to be left alone?

     “But criminals!” You’ve heard the cry. It’s almost as constant as “For the children,” and even more specious. Consider the current foofaurauw over the cell phone the FBI has demanded that Apple unlock. Why? Because it might provide a lead to a possible third party to the mass shooting in San Bernardino a couple of months ago. The precedental power of compliance by Apple is difficult to overstate.

     We have here another case of that most vicious of legal canards, "compelling government interest." This time, it appears not to be sufficient. Too many people are aware of the range of their activities that would subsequently be monitorable...and far too many people have a compelling interest of their own in keeping a substantial part of their affairs entirely private.

     That desire for a private space in which individuals can transact without fear of prying government eyes is strong enough to reinvent cash, should the valueless cash foisted upon us by the Federal Reserve System be shorn of its anonymity.

     The reinvention of cash will require both determination and trust. As any new cash won’t be “legal tender,” which the seller is required by law to accept “for all debts, public and private,” any new cash will be required to have some of the properties of a commodity money:

  1. Valued for their intrinsic properties;
  2. Easily recognizable;
  3. Difficult or impossible to counterfeit;
  4. Durable under use;
  5. Relatively stable in quantity;
  6. Divisible into very small quantities without degradation.

     The traditional money metals – gold, silver, and copper – possess all those qualities. For hand-to-hand transactions between strangers, all of them would be highly desirable at the very least. Should the transactors know and trust one another, qualities 1, 2, and 3 would remain absolutely required, while the others would be of less importance.

     It’s unlikely that a single “standard cash” would arise swiftly after the Fed’s destruction of the privacy of its notes. More likely, there would be many “local cashes,” perhaps a few “regional cashes,” for a long time afterward. There would also be a great deal of barter, unmediated by cash of any sort. Some items that would start out as common barter would be “promoted” to the status of a cash: ammunition in the most common calibers has frequently been mentioned in this connection.

     The one thing of which we can be sure is the dynamic: the desire of millions of Americans for a zone of privacy in which they can transact without notice by the State.

     Americans’ most important protection against the State is the State’s own nature: its predictability and the stupidity of its adherents. A slice of an underappreciated novel from one of the greatest of contemporary storytellers has much point:

     Rammaden, the safecracker, had told an amusing story about two thieves who had broken into a supermarket one Friday night when they knew a snowstorm had kept the Wells Fargo truck from arriving and taking the heavy end-of-the-week receipts to the bank. The safe was a barrel box. They tried to drill out the combination dial with no success. They had tried to peel it but had been totally unable to bend back a corner and get a start. Finally they had blown it. That was a total success. They blew that barrel wide open, so wide open in fact that all the money inside had been totally destroyed. What was left had looked like the shredded money you sometimes see in those novelty pens.

     “The point is,” Rammaden had said in his dry and wheezing voice, “those two thieves didn’t beat the safe. The whole game is beating the safe. You don’t beat the safe unless you can take away what was in it in usable condition, you get my point? They overloaded it with soup. They killed the money. They were assholes and the safe beat them.”

     [Stephen King, Firestarter]

     Should our political masters “kill the money” in the currently anticipated non-explosive way, they’ll have pitted themselves and their monolithic coercive skills against the ingenuity and determination of millions of Americans determined to preserve what remains of their privacy. One lumbering Goliath will face off against millions of small, quick, inventive Davids, each with a sling of his own choosing.

     Which way would you bet, Gentle Reader?

An examination of fundamentals.

From an interview[1] of Ralph Raico conducted by someone at the Mises Institute:
Liberal class analysis holds that history is indeed a struggle between two classes.

But these classes aren’t the “bourgeoisie” and the “proletariat,” as Marxism holds is the case in modern times. Rather, one group is composed of the beneficiaries of state action, the other of its victims. State subsidies and prohibitions, state-granted contracts and monopolies, tariffs, central banking and the manipulation of the currency, imperialism, above all preparing for and waging war — historically, the state’s preeminent business — these serve the interest of a favored few and are detrimental to the interests of everyone else.

Mass democracy, as its nineteenth century liberal opponents foretold, inevitably devolves into a contest of contending forces, motivated by corrupt self-interest, either directly financial or ideological.
I recommend the full interview with Mr. Raico to you. The most telling point he makes is that the (classical) liberals made a mistake in allying with Bismarck in Germany, who proceeded to embrace protectionism and created the welfare state. Liberals' basic error was
. . . their lack of understanding that in modern times the one great enemy of liberty and general prosperity is the centralized bureaucratic state — what the English liberal Thomas Macaulay already in 1830 characterized as “the all-devouring state.”
That is precisely the error that all the liberals I have ever known or read about have made in the U.S.

The U.S. Constitution was deliberately constructed to prevent the federal government from becoming what it has become. But countless judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and lawyers at all levels of the American government betrayed their oath to support and defend the Constitution because it was, in their considered judgment, expedient to do so. Liberals were thrilled at every step and clapped like seals. They have never mentioned or shown the least interest in their God-given liberties, let alone the Constitution, unless they encounter minor officials like cops who write them a ticket for speeding. Then, to quote one, they are "bastards." Apart from such rare expressions of anger, they are content to accept far greater assaults on their freedoms and their property. For "the greater good" or "progressive ends," which they think they can forever define.

And now we have a president with a phone and a pen who had the unmitigated gall to call for the fundamental transformation of American and who thinks he, and he alone, can decide on changes to the ethnic, racial, and religious composition of a nation of over 300,000,000 people. And involve us in a ruinously expensive military adventure in Syria that has caused over a quarter of a million civilian deaths.

One man!

We also have a Supreme Court that can by a majority of its members manufacture rights and duties simply by the exercise of their creative imaginations. Constitution optional. Done and done.

The notion that politicians and officials are bound by the chains of the Constitution has long ago gone over the rail. The president of old was limited to protecting the nation against invasion and deciding what color to paint the buoys in Chesapeake Bay. Now we have freaks like Obama and Clinton and clueless people like Bush '41 and '43 deciding what can be taught to our children and who should govern Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan. Really? They're that wonderful?

I am delighted by the successes of Donald Trump. Even when the Constitution is pushed aside by the whole nation, it is still possible to choose between good and bad policies. Trump is soaring because he is saying, where (1) immigrants who despise the West (or whose religion is pure savagery and superstition) and (2) foreign trade are concerned, that American doesn't have to be everybody's bitch.

I don't see, yet, that Mr. Trump is attuned to the problems of the all-powerful, unconstitutional central state. Some earlier positions suggest the opposite is the case. Still, he's entitled to make his own assessment now of what is vitally important and what are problems 80 years in the making that no one else has been able to solve -- and which few of his fellow citizens even consider to be problems.

Immigration and trade are existential threats with which we must deal immediately and Trump is clearly intent on doing that. For now, that is enough for me to be very happy about his primary triumphs.

There is, however, a lot more housecleaning to be done even after he achieves his goals. That's been in order for the last 84 years and the "conservative" keepers of the flame have accomplished exactly nothing in the intervening years as our liberties have flown out the window and federal power has grown and metastasize like something out of a science fiction movie. Judges slobber over laughable pronouncements of the Supreme Court (emanations and non-tax taxes). Bar associations are silent and useless as the attacks on free speech by pathetic, ignorant students, thugs and liars multiply and weak university administrators and prosecutors disgrace themselves.

The charges of weakness and indifference -- to the national catastrophe that our abandonment of the Constitution is -- can be leveled at many, many people.

[1] "Democracy Has Been Weaponized. A Conversation With Historian Ralph Raico." The Austrian, January-February, 2016.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Quickies: If You Shoot At The King... sure you kill him:

     On Monday the European Central Bank President emphatically disclosed that he is strongly considering phasing out the 500 euro note.

     Yesterday, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers published an op-ed in the Washington Post about getting rid of the $100 bill.

     Prominent economists and banks have joined the refrain and called for an end to cash in recent months.

     The reasoning is almost always the same: cash is something that only criminals, terrorists, and tax cheats use.

     In his op-ed, Summers refers to a new Harvard research paper entitled: “Making it Harder for the Bad Guys: The Case for Eliminating High Denomination Notes”.

     That title pretty much sums up the conventional thinking. And the paper goes on to propose abolishing, among others, 500 euro and $100 bills.

     The authors claim that “without being able to use high denomination notes, those engaged in illicit activities – the ‘bad guys’ of our title – would face higher costs and greater risks of detection. Eliminating high denomination notes would disrupt their ‘business models’.”

     This is an exceedingly frightening prospect. Moreover, if the proponents had the brains God gave a flea, they’d be the most frightened of all:

  • Cash – physical items that serve as a medium of exchange – is the medium of the “underground economy,” which supports roughly 30% of all economic activity in the First World and probably a larger fraction in the “developing countries.”
  • Banknotes – here in the U.S., Federal Reserve Notes – are cash but not money. They’re merely currency: a proxy for real money, which must have value independent of any diktat by the State.
  • The disappearance of banknotes, whether partial or complete, would accelerate the reinvention of real money: an item valued for its intrinsic properties, not merely because others are compelled to accept it.
  • The point of eliminating cash isn’t to squelch “criminal activity,” but to eliminate financial privacy and to enable the imposition of negative interest rate policies, such as Japan and several European countries already suffer.
  • The banking system, which is founded on fractional reserve policy, would collapse as people reinvented real money and sought alternatives to the banks.

     Nothing is quite as stupidly shortsighted as a greedy statist – and no policy is greedier or more statist than one that says “you can only have your money if, when, and as we say so.”

     Buy gold, silver, and copper while you can. Don’t wait for the axe to fall.

Quickies: Those Lovable Muslims Dept.

     Regular Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch will already know my opinions of Islam and Muslims. Suffice it to say that I favor closing our borders to them, and isolating and shunning those already here to the extent required to get them to leave this country and not return.

     (No, I don’t care what any Muslim has to say about himself or his creed; the Qur’an and the ahadith exhort Muslims to lie to non-Muslims whenever it would serve the cause of Islam. Therefore, anyone who adopts the creed has marked himself as untrustworthy. Q.E.D.)

     Concerning Islamic efforts to force themselves upon us despised “infidels,” the invaluable Pamela Geller reports as follows:

     On February 17, 2016, Raja’ee Fatihah, a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Oklahoma, with the assistance of CAIR legal counsel and the ACLU, sued Chad (a disabled Iraqi war veteran) and Nicole Neal, the owners of the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range, which is located in Oktaha, Oklahoma.

     The American Freedom Law Center is representing the gun range owners.

     Fatihah, a self-proclaimed sharia-adherent Muslim, alleges that he was not permitted to use the Neal’s firing range because he was Muslim in violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

     But the facts will prove otherwise. On October 23, 2015, Fatihah entered the Neal’s facility with an AK-47 over his shoulder, magazine inserted. The firing range is an outdoor range, and it was pouring rain that day—no one in their right mind (at least no one without an agenda) would even consider shooting on a day like this. Consequently, Fatihah was the only one at the range that day (in fact, there was an indoor range available to him in Tulsa if he was truly interested in only shooting).

     These facts alone raise enough suspicion for the owner of a gun range (an inherently dangerous business) to ask the person to leave. But there was more.

     While no one at the range ever asked Fatihah what his religion was, he became confrontational with the owners over his religion and his adherence to sharia, further raising the owners’ concerns about this man’s motives and intent. In fact, the owners seriously feared for their personal safety.

     Consequently, they asked Fatihah to fill out a form and then told him that they would get back with him regarding whether he could fire at the range. The owners then promptly (and rightfully so) did a background check on Fatihah and found out that he was a board member of CAIR—an organization with strong ties to terrorism—confirming the owners’ suspicions.

     Unfortunately, “antidiscrimination law” and the precedents set by the Civil Rights Acts are on CAIR’s side. However, there are escapes. My favorite one runs thus:

  • Declare the firing range a club, open only to members in good standing;
  • Require that any applicant for membership must be approved by all current members;
  • Institute a dress code that includes the mandatory wearing of a large, visible crucifix.

     Let’s see Fatihah and CAIR satisfy those requirements.

Twitter, Facebook, And The USA

     “Any organization not explicitly right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.” – Robert Conquest’s Second Law of Politics

     You’ve probably read about Twitter’s actions against popular conservative writers Robert Stacy McCain and “most dangerous faggot” Milo Yiannopoulos. These events and others have stimulated many other conservatives to abandon Twitter:

     I’m done with Twitter. If you follow me over there, I’ll leave the account open to post blog links back to here and book ads, but other than that I’m not going to use it for any sort of conversation.

     You’ve probably heard about how Twitter is falling apart. Their stock price has been tanking.

     Recently they created a Trust and Safety Council, to protect people from being triggered with hurtful dissenting ideas. Of course the council is made up of people like Anita Sarkesian, so you know how it is going to swing.

     They’ve been unverifying conservatives, and outright banning conservative journalists. Then there were rumors of “shadow banning” where people would post, but their followers wouldn’t see it in their timelines. So it’s like you’re talking to a room that you think has 9,000 people in it, but when the lights come on you’ve been wasting time talking to an empty room.

     It doesn’t seem to have registered with Twitter’s board of directors that alienating half its potential audience is not a wise move when its stock is already in a death spiral. But as with the behavior of conventional publishing houses, so also with “social media.” The Left’s campaign to infiltrate, subvert, and subjugate such institutions to its liberal-fascist ideology trumps the profit least until the law of supply and demand catches up with it.

     Facebook has already succumbed to Leftist subversion. Open fora that admit leftists tend toward that fate, for leftists are obsessed with power, especially the power to control the expression and dissemination of ideas. That’s the force behind Robert Conquest’s Second Law:

Every expressive medium becomes a Leftist target.
If the Left can subjugate such a medium, it will do so.

     Which has me wondering how much longer I’ll be welcome here at Blogger.

     “As above, so below,” runs the old mystical mantra, and indeed it is so. The United States as a whole is enduring the same sort of partition: i.e., into places, institutions, and zones under the thumb of the Left, and those where ideas and opinions from the Right remain welcome.

     Educational institutions, whether public or private, are a lost cause. So also are the journalism and entertainment industries. Advertising is seriously imperiled. Vast swathes of the World Wide Web have become no-dissent zones. And it can get worse: law enforcement appears to be sliding leftward as well:

     The University of Texas at Austin police department issued a disorderly conduct citation to an outdoor preacher on Tuesday after students complained that his message had offended them. The preacher, who was standing just off campus, recorded his interaction with several university police officers, who explained that it was illegal for him to offend the students.

     The preacher was an intern with Campus Ministry USA, an evangelical ministry organization that travels around college campuses loudly preaching their message. The ministry is headed by one Brother Jed Smock, who told The Daily Caller that his intern Joshua “was speaking out against STDs, warning against anal sex.”

     The university told TheDC that the officer was responding to students who claimed to be “verbally harassed” by the intern-preacher. The video shows the officer explaining that the intern’s use of “anal” and “penis” offended students, before issuing a citation for disorderly conduct. “After a lawyer representing Joshua called the chief of police, the chief called Joshua and apologized. The citation was withdrawn.” Brother Jed told TheDC.

     Can anyone sincerely believe that the officer who issued that disorderly conduct citation didn’t know he was enforcing a nonexistent law? Even the rawest rookie cop has to know that except for incitements to riot, free expression in a public place is a Constitutionally protected right. But he would also have known that his citation would have the proverbial “chilling effect” on disliked ideas and sentiments.

     This is what the Left does. It’s been decisively defeated both by facts and logic, and by the verdict of history, so its remaining hope of prevailing lies in suppressing its adversaries. Inasmuch as it firmly believes in its moral and intellectual superiority, it will use whatever means are expedient toward achieving that end.

     Welcome to North Korea.

     In The True Believer, Eric Hoffer spoke of the Left’s “compact and unified church,” wherein any information or reasoning that might cause an adherent to doubt his affiliation is warded away by a “fact-proof screen.” That screen is composed of both institutions and individuals: institutions controlled by the Left, and individuals who will immediately descend upon a doubter to bludgeon him back into submission. It’s in the nature of things that such a screen will, over time, separate “true believers” geographically from all others. The process has been under way for a long time. It’s moving asymptotically closer to perfection. Note how the geographical distribution of voters has morphed over the century behind us: the coasts become ever more left-inclined while the inland states grow ever more conservative.

     The process probably won’t cause the fissioning of the U.S. into two separate, ideologically opposed countries. But it’s steadily arranging the ideological and geographical separation of Americans, such that with the best will in the world, one on the Right will be unable to sustain a friendship (or any more intimate relationship) with one on the Left. That’s the way the Left wants it.

     Is that the way you want it, Gentle Reader?

Monday, February 22, 2016

What’s the Big Idea?

In a previous column, I wrote how General Petraeus said there are four tasks he thinks strategic leaders have to perform:
- First, “Get the ‘Big Ideas’ right.”
- Second, “Effectively communicate the Big Ideas.”
- Third, “Oversee the implementation of the Big Ideas.”
- Fourth, “Capture best practices and lessons…to help refine the Big Ideas.”

I think there is an excellent example of getting the “Big Idea” right in our domestic political world right now, i.e., “Make America Great Again!”  It is an awesome slogan.  Sadly, there is one big problem with it, and that is that it’s true – we do need to make America great again. 

Before attempting to make America great again, it would be wise to understand what made America great in the first place.  Perhaps it’s the fact that we had a Godly start -- the key is contained in the founding document that set the course of our country.  Our Declaration declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”  No Creator, no America. 

The Founding Fathers wisely concluded that divinely inspired document, which declared our independence from an unjust king, by declaring our complete dependence on the King of Glory.  It closes with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”  No Divinity, no America. 

How far we’ve fallen that so many fail to recognize, or acknowledge this “self-evident” truth. 
The Father of our Country prayed a prayer for our Nation’s future that laid out the required conditions for perpetual greatness.  “Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy Holy protection…  Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.  Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  Although George didn’t get the memo on political correctness, he did recognize the source of greatness.

Our Founders were sober-minded that the liberty we might enjoy required that we could be self-governed.  President John Adams made this clear in a 1798 letter to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia:  “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 

What made America great was a source of intrigue for the French historian and social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.  In May, 1831 he published a two-part work titled Democracy in America which has been described as, “the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written.”  Among de Tocqueville’s notable findings: 

“Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things, to which I was unaccustomed.  In France, I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions.  But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.” 

Our founding is unique in the respect that our founders believed that our rights came from the Author of Liberty.  As scripture records, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 

While I agree with the “Big Idea” to Make America Great Again, I’m not sure everyone agrees on the solution.  King David said it this way:  The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.”