Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ponder this

The Constitution states that the Senate has to ratify all treaties. Yet "treaties" entered in to by the Federal Reserve are not subject to any elected authority whatever. Consider this: The governing body for the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision reached an agreement a few weeks ago on the major elements of a new financial regulatory architecture, commonly known as Basel III. By increasing the quantity and quality of capital that banking firms must hold and by strengthening liquidity requirements, Basel III aims to constrain bank risk-taking, reduce the incidence and severity of future financial crises, and produce a more resilient financial system. The key elements of this framework are due to be finalized by the end of this year.

This sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Yet it is happening beyond the realm of democracy. It is literally the case that important decisions are being made, that will affect the lives of Americans in important ways, that we have absolutely NO control over. The Senate has no control. The President has no control. They could use the public stage to voice opposition, but legally they can do nothing. There is no counterbalance, no counterweight to the aggregated power of the Federal Reserve.

Every election cycle the economy is an issue, it seems. Yet no one talks about the Fed. This is lunacy. A credible case could be made that it should be brought within the direct control of Congress or the Executive Branch, but no case can be made that an entity which has the power to change all of our lives for the better AND for the worse should be given nearly complete control over our fiscal policy.

Two birds, one stone

This is my response to the one person who has rendered an opinion.

Your sister told me you thought my plan would cause a global, ten year Depression. I thought about it, and decided you must be concerned about liquidity, about financing for new projects. Obviously eliminating debt does not immediately produce a surplus of investment capital. I have a solution to that: in some form or other, we create a surplus.

For example, we could deposit into the bank accounts of every person in America $10,000, which they could not withdraw for one year. During that year, the banks could lend it out, and the owner of the account would earn interest in the form of a CD. Once the year was out, this would serve as seed money for individual investments.

Or, since we would likely see immediate price inflation once the year was out, we could deposit the money, but require people to treat it as an IRA, only touchable upon retirement. That might be better. This would also take the place of Social Security, which will have to be radically altered one way or another, and which in my view should be abolished entirely, except perhaps for the charitable part of it.

As things stand, banks make money from nothing already, in the form of fractional reserve banking. This system would give them the money to lend, and make them financially bullet proof, as long as the loans they made did not go into mass default. As you likely know, our housing crisis would have been inconceivable without Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In my view, we are going to see liquidity problems in any event. In the recent Basel talks, it was agreed that banks need to increase their reserves. This is necessarily going to constrict the amount of credit they can offer. Effectively, and without calling it that, the Fed and other central banks have raised the Reserve Requirement, which is always a tool of fiscal tightening. This will happen gradually, and at the same time as our national need for cash increases. I cannot see this resulting in anything but increased interest costs for our debt, which will create a feedback loop that will get us in hot water even faster than current predictions.

The situation is unsustainable. It might be fixed if we could fill Congress with true conservatives, but that will take years, and will likely not even be possible.

This plan appeals to people's natural sense of greed and entitlement. The banks comes out OK, all governments come out OK, consumers with debt come out OK, corporations--large and small--come out OK.

I really do think that if somebody came out saying: I can make all your debt go away, then I can give you a bunch of money, that they would do well.

Financal system proposal

I wrote a proposal for a radical overhaul (at the bottom) of our financial system. The first feedback I have received is that it would "cause a global depression for ten years". This I got second hand from a friend whose brother is a nationally known financial adviser. That's all I got, though. He didn't reply to my email, and apparently doesn't meet people for beer.

Pondering what he meant, it must have been a crisis of liquidity, which is to say cash for investment. If that is the case, then it seems to me we could address that by creating extra money for all citizens. Every citizen of the United States could be given $1,000, to be used in an economic investment. Or $2,000. Or $20,000. Or access to that money, as a line of credit held by their State government. This money would be created prior to ending the Fed.

Perhaps that would be best. Each State is given, say, a $20 billion surplus in money, from which all members of the State can draw for business investment at no interest. This would democratize money, spur growth and investment, and economic progress.

The traditional alternative is for banks to do the same thing. They have a line of credit which ends, finally, in fiat money. Why should the banks be the sole conduit of financing, particularly if the money in the end comes either from a government run central bank (everyone else) or a semi-private, semi-public financial cartel like the Federal Reserve? It is anti-free market and anti-democratic.

What all Americans need to know about our debt

We need only consider two items:

1) Tax payers will be paying around $600 billion in interest on the national debt by 2012, and that amount will overtake the annual Defense Dept. budget some time between then and 2020. This is money which is not only not economically productive, but which acts as a drag on our economy. It does enrich those who hold those bonds, though. Whether we fight wars on terror or wars on poverty, the same people benefit by lending us that money. Our loss is their gain, and thus represents a de facto transfer of power as well. Who those people are is irrelevant, but some are certainly the Chinese and the Saudis.

2) We have some $200 trillion in unfunded Social Security liabilities, and will within the next twenty years or so owe an amount every year equal to our Gross Domestic Product in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Self evidently, this means that the status quo cannot be maintained through increased taxation, since we cannot take the entire economic output of the nation to fund entitlements. Further, to the extent we try to do so, we obviously shrink that output.

This confuses some people, so I will make this simple. Social Security is and always has been an intergenerational wealth transfer program. The first Social Security recipient--Ida May Fuller--paid in $24.75, and received $22,888.92 in benefits. It's not a program which takes from the rich and gives to the poor--although that element is there in part as well. It is a program in which the grandchildren pay for their grandparents benefits. If the number of grandchildren are equal to the number of grandparents, the math can work. Demographically, though, there were a LOT of babies born after WW2--the Baby Boomers--and that number dropped off subsequently, such that if what we would have paid was $1, now we have to pay $1.50.

To this must be added the frequent increases in benefits, so called "cost of living" increases. Prior to the Boomers hitting, these could more or less be managed by increasing the payroll taxes. Social Security only went into net negative cash flow this year. But every increase in benefits has meant an increase in the relative burden on those paying it, since those putting in to it could not have paid that money.

To be clear, in theory--which is to say according to the deceptive arguments used to convince a skeptical Congress--Social Security was just Uncle Sam making sure you provided for your own retirement. The funds would go to a special place, and nobody would touch them. Yet, the program takes some 62,000 people to administer, and they have to be paid. How are they paid? Payroll taxes. If you ponder this for a moment, you realize that if they did nothing but take your cash and pile it up, you would still lose, since they would have to deduct their overhead. Not only can you not earn interest, but you LOSE in the bargain, necessarily and unavoidably, and to this must be added the loss of the value of money as a result of inflation.

How is this fact masked? Unfunded cost of living increases, which is to say increasing the tax burden on each succeeding generation.

Broken down, here is the situation, then. We can project with a reasonably high degree of accuracy how much money will be taken in in payroll taxes in, say, 2025, and how many people will be receiving benefits, and how much those benefits will cost. We are, today, taking in less than we pay out. This amount will steadily increase, year after year. The deficit will be $50 billion, then $100, then $500 , then a trillion, then 2 trillion, and max out at about $4 trillion annually. We will pay out $4 trillion more than we take in, for a number of years. Then that amount will slowly decrease, as the Boomers pass on, and we will again reach a balance of payments some time 20-30-40 (the exact number doesn't matter) years from now.

It does not take a great deal of intelligence to realize this situation, particularly added to our budget deficit and following debt and interest payments from all other causes (Obamacare, wars, pet projects, etc), will result in our destruction as a nation. The American Experiment will have failed, due to fiscal profligacy and profound, stupefying irresponsibility.

In my own view, it is much too late to simply cut the budget or raise taxes. We owe $13 trillion already, and that amount is increasing quickly. History is rich with nations inflating their way out of debt, but relatively poor with examples of nations paying off bills like this honestly. They normally just fail, and in effect become the vassals of another nation.

Consider the example of Weimar Germany. Most of us have seen pictures or films of the wheelbarrows full of money, but not realized how they came about. Money does not grow on trees. Money is printed by people with the power to do so. It costs them next to nothing to make, but it acquires worth the moment they spend it. The money that filled those wheelbarrows was printed by the German government as a means of paying off war debts. It was economically ruinous to the ordinary citizens of Germany, but it was hugely beneficial to the German government, and to large industrial concerns with debts. They inflated until they were done paying the war reparations, then they simply revalued the Mark, and went about their business. This was not precisely the plan--I don't think there was a plan--but that is how it worked out. It was the global Depression which brought about Hitler, not the hyperinflation.

We can, and in my view should, do something like this, but openly and quickly, and in a way which benefits everyone. We further need to rectify the problems with our financial system. My proposal for how to do this is contained HERE.

A key component of this proposal that many people miss is that I have redefined what Capitalism is. This is not a small issue. People really need to ponder this, and grasp this, since in its own way this is as original a critique as those offered by Marx and Adam Smith; assuming my logic is sound, of course. I'm seeking critics and if you qualify, please comment.

Assuming my logic is sound, the beauty of this proposal is that it could also be used to pay off the debts of all developing nations, which have been lassoed by global financial interests. Developing the mechanics of that process here would take me too far off track, though. The net is simply that if you can write checks in any amount, you can pay any debt, and if the entity holding that debt disappears--as in my plan--so too does the debt.

Net, net: This is what a useful, peaceful revolution looks like. This would be Hope and Change.

If this makes sense to you--if this is information you think should be available to other Americans as they assess the plans of various political candidates--then please pass this link along to as many people as you can. Thank you!!!

Periodic Krugman piece

He does make some sense. If we look at the Pledge to America it really does sound like it's lacking in the brass balls we need to actually fix our problems. This is what happened in 1994, and why it is so positive that Tea Party conservatives are on ballots around the country, most with realistic chances of winning.

What he avoids, because he has to, is the admission that the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid systems simply are not sustainable in their present forms. Everyone knows this. He knows this, but in exactly the same manner that he accuses the Republicans of, he forgoes a rational policy discussion by simply demonizing the Republicans for wanting to secretly attack pet entitlements which he correctly assumes are important to many Americans.

To be clear, the question is not whether or not those programs are desirable. It would be desirable for me to have a nice country estate and trust fund so I could spend all day writing, but the question is what I can afford. And just as I can't afford that, we can't afford these programs.

Another vapid piece of fluff, that keeps the troops in line, points out the enemy, and offers no solutions or even adult discussion. He's worse than worthless: he is an apologist for policies of decline and failure.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Idiocy

I don't think a person can be useful if they are not periodically wondering if they are being stupid.

Most of the evil in this world is done by people who think that intelligence and knowledge are qualities you can possess, and not the outcomes of habits you cultivate.

Why I believe Van Jones is a Leninist

This is a response to a challenge from someone who disliked some comments I made on Glenn Beck's Facebook page.

First off, I should define my terms. I consider socialism, Communism, Marxism, and Leninism to be four different things.

Socialism is an ethical system founded on the idea that inequalities in economic outcome are necessarily the result of inequities in the system, and that the primary purpose of political organization is the eradication of inequalities.

Communism is a system of controlling populations based upon naked force, propaganda (which is to say a combination of deception and brainwashing), and a system of rewards and punishments, such that conformers are rewarded, and dissidents punished. It is a two tiered system in which Party members have all the power and the perks that go with power, and in which those outside the Party get whatever those in power choose for them, and which can be physically provided, given the productive limitations of Command economies. Communists do not recognize human rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, right to keep and bear arms, right to avoid self incrimination, security of personal property, due process of law, equality before the law, the right to a writ of habeas corpus, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, the right of the people to elect their representatives, personal economic freedom to produce and sell goods for a profit, to trade goods for a profit, or the right to the free exercise of religion.

If you abrogate everything contained in the Bill of Rights, and then eliminate the ability to live directly on the fruits of your own labor, you will not be far off.

The principle difference between Communism and what is normally called Fascism is the element of nationalism. Communism, in theory at least, is transnational and does not recognize national sovereignty or the right to maintaim individual cultural differences. Everyone is to look and behave the same, which is to say however the Party needs them to look and behave at any given moment in time.

Marxism is an economic theory which predicted the collapse of the Capitalist system as a result of a process by means of which--year on year--the owners of the means of production siphoned off the wealth of the workers, such that a point would be reached in which almost all wealth was held by a very few, and the many would be living in such egregious poverty that revolution was inevitable. His mistake was to fail to realize that excess income for ALL workers, if saved, becomes Capital, such that all members of society can become Capitalists themselves. This is the nature of the origin of the middle class. He further failed to realize that profit comes not from stealing from the workers, but rather from the process of innovation. Since this process is led by the owners of the means of production, they are themselves productive and not parasitic, as he argued. The parasites are the central banks, but that is another topic.

Leninism is a means of implementing Communism. It relies on stealth, deceit, and treachery. Lenin himself made all sorts of promises to all sorts of people. He used the so-calle Mensheviks (this term is illustrative: it means "minority party", and Bolshevik means "majority party", when in reality Lenin only led a small group when he coined these terms. The word "Bolshevik", itself, is a lie) when he needed them, then when they learned what he actually planned, he waged a vicious war against them. The story was that democracy would be enacted, the feudal land system would be done away with, and that all the subject states in the Russian Empire--like Kazakhstan and Georgia--would be freed. He consolidated power, then reneged on all those promises. He developed a system of propaganda which is best summarized in Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, and he was using secret police to terrorize potential opponents well before he won the war with the White Russians.

To be clear, Lenin's principle difference of principle and method from the other revolutionaries in Russia was that where they wanted to be democratic and inclusive, he only wanted a small elite of professional, full time revolutionaries, who would wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about revolution. He had no room for anyone who was not committed head to toe, and for life.

Leninism is a type of cult. It is very literally a reason for living for those who adopt it. Most of them change their names. Lenin's real name was Ulyanov. When he became a Communist, he changed it. Stalin's ("steel" plus Lenin, in Russian) real name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. Ho Chi Minh's real name was either Nguyen Tat Thanh, or Nguyen Sinh Cung (I see differing accounts) which he changed to Nguyen Ai Quoc when he became a commited nationalist, and Ho Chi Minh when he became a Communist, some time around 1919. It is a little known but interesting fact that Ho was a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920.

This brings me to a point which it is critical to grasp. Communists lie. They lie because they recognize no morality other than power. Marx himself had nothing to say about morality. Lenin commissioned some of the largest and most vicious crimes imaginable, all in the name of the revolution for "the people." He didn't like "people", though. He showed that often.

Fast forward 50 years or so, and read Rules for Radicals. There is nothing in there about the difference between right and wrong. There is only room for success and failure, and deception and willful manipulation of the public dialogue was the primary means he advocated.

And one sees over and over and over very committed Leninists lying for years about their actual beliefs. Ho Chi Minh fooled people literally for decades. Fidel Castro said he was just a nationalist, and then when he took power, and began eliminating potential rivals who actually were nationalists, the truth came out.

An obscure but interesting example is Albert Pham Ngoc Thao, who was a commander in the Viet Minh, then claimed he had had a change of heart. He was made chief of military security for the South Vietnamese Army, and in that capacity was involved in several coups. It came out in 1975 that he had always been a Leninist, and had never renounced his old ways.

The two most prominent secret Leninists in the U.S. government were Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Hiss chaired the committee that wrote the UN Charter. White, along with John Maynard Keynes, was the architect of both the IMF and World Bank.

So if people tell you there were never any senior Leninists in our government, they are misinformed. People can and do pretend they are "normal", while not just holding radical beliefs but acting on them.

And we see people turn from Leninism. Whittaker Chambers dropped the dime on Hiss in the late 30's, and FDR literally told him to "Fuck off". That is, I believe, a quote. Chambers had a radical transformation. He became a political conservative and ardent opponent of all forms of leftism. One of my heroes is Albert Camus, who was an open Communist--I will use that word, since he for a time thought the Soviets had built something worth a damn--but then very openly and publicly broke with the Party, which ended his friendship with Sartre.

Or take David Horowitz, who was a prominent leftist in the 60's, and who--when he realized that you can't change human nature without even trying to adhere to moral laws--switched to being a conservative.

Or take the Neocons, who actually are a group, although you'd never know it. Almost all of them were former Leninists or Trotskyists, who got "mugged by history", and wound up on a permanently altered path.

When people awaken to what Communism means for the people in the countries which have it, they can never go back. There is a line which cannot be crossed twice.

Now, on to Jones. Let's start with this quote: "I met all these young radical people of color - I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, 'This is what I need to be a part of.' "I was a rowdy [black] nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th," he said. "By August, I was a communist." This was 1992. On his own admission, and as evidenced clearly in their own publications, his group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement was Marxist in its economic outlook (in their self appraisal), and Leninist and Maoist in its political aims, which were the organization of (presumbly secret) revolutionary cadres to disseminate propaganda, organize people politically, and if and when the time came to take to the streets both in protest, and--perhaps--open violence. This sort of thing fills the writings of both Lenin and Mao, and he organized study groups for the writings of both men.

I would note, too, that Jones, in 2005, was wearing a t-shirt that said "Kanye was right". Watch the video, and decide what that implies about his beliefs in 2005. That is what race baiting looks like.

On his own admission, Jones was a "Communist" in 1992, and spent the next ten years trying to organize revolutionary cadres.

From page 40: We were a cadre organization that was working to build revolutionary mass organizations and to lay the groundwork for a future revolutionary party (or parties) by building a broad revolutionary internationalist trend.

On page 2 you will note that although the authors are not listed, they included substantially all the members of the group when it broke up in 2002, and that the document itself was a sort of Maoist self criticism. Public self denigration was an essential part of the Maoist propaganda system.

So we have a self admitted communist, who for the last 8 years has been working to bring together the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, and the social justice movements. We don't have him saying, again, "I am a Communist". What we have is the admission that what he was going WASN'T WORKING.

I put the issues and constituencies first. I'll work with anybody, I'll fight anybody if it will push our issues forward.... I'm willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends."

Does that sound like a change of heart? Not to me. Those are his words, several years after the end of STORM.

Finally, we have this video from a talk in a setting friendly to him and his ideas, Berkeley, California. Glenn Beck, who we are discussing, has the audio here. You listen to Jones. I don't have time to find the exact spot on the audio, but it is abundantly clear from his tone, his response, and his facial expression that not only is he still a Marxist, but that this is so well known that the question is ridiculous.

Note, too, that he calls his group the "Pro-democracy" movement. In his view, America was not a "democracy" under George Bush, and now it will be under Barack Obama. This is a ridiculous claim. Did Obama suddenly create the right to vote? Of course not. He is talking about something else.

Democracy and Republic are both codespeak for Communist tyranny: hence the People's Republic of China, the German Democratic Republic, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviets, at one time, were the equivalent of, perhaps, State assemblies, prior to the Bolsheviks making them one party by law), etc.

Or take the group from which Bill Ayers split off: Students for a Democratic Society. Did they want a system in which people have government recognized rights which protect them from abuses, and in which people could render their opinions in the ballot box, resulting in regular changes in government? Of course not. The setup is simple: Capitalism is about greed, greed is wrong, therefore "freedom" consists in protection from PRIVATE greed (self evidently, all Communists governments are far, far more abusive than the worst corporation in human history), and "democracy" is the system which does this. In order to become free, tyranny must be imposed. Only people with college educations at elite schools can be stupid enough to believe this, but they are out there. Jones law degree is from Yale, if memory serves.

Again, Leninism is about deceit. It is an evil doctrine, that results in human suffering, and those who knowingly adopt it are in my view likewise morally corrupt.

Van Jones is clearly such a person. He wants to destroy, not build, and hate, not love, his own propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding.

Edit: I will add, that Jones is very clearly MUCH more talented than our current President. It is a shame he has not seen fit to put that talent to use in a way that would actually improve the lives of people in the inner city he claims to care about. As things stand, the policies of the Democrats will hurt them worst of all. His "green jobs" idea was never anything but a redistributive hustle.

It is a pity to see the venom of Leftism ruin what otherwise could have been productive lives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

One could perhaps best understand the tendency towards "conspiracy as explanation" by positing that people so inclined are unwilling to accept that things sometimes simply happen by chance, and that some mystery is an inevitable part of life.

However, it is also generally the case that people tend to pursue their own interests. If you have a group with the motivation and means to pursue an end, quite often they will do so. Pointing this out is hardly earthshattering, or indicative of mental febrility.

Why was Kennedy shot? In view because Lee Harvey Oswald was a devoted Communist who opposed Kennedy's Cuban policies in particular, but his Cold War against the Soviets more generally.

Was the Lincoln assassination a conspiracy? Of course: attempts were also made on the lives of the Vice President and Secretary of War. A system of safe houses and escape routes was carefully planned.

Was the Depression a result of monetary manipulation? Well, the same set of banks presided over the inflation in the 1920's that caused generalized overvaluation of stocks, and overleveraging of many businesses and banks, as presided over pulling that same money back out for an almost equal amount of time. You had many thousands of businesses addicted to easy money, who then folded when that money disappeared, or were gobbled up at a fraction of their actual potential value. Conspiracy? The same small elite made both sets of decisions, and benefited from the process by eliminating over half the independent banks in the United States. You decide.

What I intended to post on today was weather manipulation. Is it not at least theoretically possible that the apostles of the Holy Social Church of Global Warming and Climate Change could affect "God's Will" (the climate) artificially?

They can't get actual global warming, but as I understand it some technologies for disruption have been in existence for quite some time, and there is no reason to suppose some are not being developed covertly with diverted Stimulus dollars. We have lost, remember, at least $6 billion dollars.

Let us suppose that we accept the rerenaming of Global Warming as "Global Climate Disruption". They can do artificial disruption. There are chemicals which, when introduced into the atmosphere, do things. They can make it not rain in some places, and rain too much in others. Conceivably, technology exists which can make areas unnaturally cold or hot.

I am no meteorologist or chemist, but it would seem to me these sorts of processes would leave trademarks. Let us suppose the planes do this at night, and will never be observed. Still, there should be traces which can be found and tested, say of "Dyn-o-gel", or silver iodide. I wonder if there is anyone around who would be both willing and able to do so wherever "weird" weather occurs.

Doing so would have to start with the presupposition that such a thing is possible.

To be clear on this, I believe that while there are many well-meaning and noble members of the environmental movement, and that we do in fact need to change how we live, that--as always in the history of leftism--there are those who want to hijack the movement for personal and group political gain. The global warming idea plugs directly into any quest for global governance, since we are told it is an emergency, and one which must be remedied through the use of international regulation AND ENFORCEMENT, and in addressing which we have to radically alter the global balance of power away from the developed nations--most notably the US, as we will suffer the most draconian cuts in our ability to generate and use energy.

Worth pondering. I won't lose any sleep over it, but will end by saying that simply because people find something inconceivable does not make it impossible. I would have thought the gas chambers of the Nazis, or the death trains of the Soviets (they would pack political prisoners like sardines, standing, and send them up North with no heating. Once they froze, they would stack them like cordwood; I don't recall if that account said what they eventually did with the bodies) were impossible, but they happened. Rape happens. Serial murder happens. Child abuse happens.

All nice people need to remember that not everyone is nice. If the Eloi had had guns and balls, their relationship with the Morlocks would have been quite different.

The Difference

Strong minded people judge ideas; weak minded people judge people; and weak people don't judge at all.

The final evil

For most of history, evil has come with the mask of religious authority. The Pharoahs were Gods on Earth. Kings the world over were the representative of the Divine on Earth. Self evidently, priests the world over were, likewise, the annointed of God, and gained their power through the use of religious faith.

For all of recorded history, the power structures of all societies of which we know were connected to religious beliefs. Some social orders--notably nomadic orders--were relatively flat, although their "priests" were still held in high regard. Others, like the Egyptian dynastic order, endured for thousands of years.

To the extent that evil was a part of the social order, it was sanctioned by appeal to unseen forces. It is for this reason that many atheistic reformers view religion, itself, as an evil.

Yet, manifestly it has served as a powerful force for Good as well. Martin Luther King Jr's religious beliefs were critically important to him. So were Malcolm X's, or Gandhis, or Mother Teresa's. Slavery was abolished (in the West; it still exists in Africa and parts of the Middle East) as a result of Christian activism.

In dark, hard hours, the faith in angels, and God, and the final reward of virtue have kept countless people from giving in to despair and hopelessness, and lapsing into power-mongering and hatred.

We have reached a point where the only religious narratives which want final power--which are anti-Liberal--are those of Islam and Leftism.

The former is, I believe, capable of internal reform. We need to recognize that most of what is most evil in that doctrine--the abuse of women, the exhortation to kill the infidel without restriction or restraint--are not actually scriptural. They are not in the only book which is claimed to be perfect, the Koran. As an example, it says in the Koran that all the writings of the Jews and Christians are also holy, and that none are rejected. They are merely imperfect, in contradistinction to the Koran.

This means that a faithful Muslim who was so inclinded could look, as an example, to the teachings of Christ as recorded in the New Testament, and follow them, provided one did not in so doing violate anything in the final revelation, the Koran.

Such a theology is not only possible, but represents the best path forward, in my view. Islam does not mean and has never meant submission to the will of MAN. Anyone within the faith who claimed that would be, in my view, demonstrably pretending to be a Prophet, which is impossible within their faith. That would, in fact, constitute de fact apostasy.

Islam constitutes submission to the Will of Allah, as represented in the Koran. And manifestly, there are calls both for charity and for violence. Surely this constitutes a recognition that both are needed at different times? Surely the ability of individual Muslims to make their own moral decisions, based upon their interpretation of their own scripture, was intended? Islamic tradition holds that every verse has many meanings--I believe the number is 7. Surely that indicates that Allah had intended his followers to exercise discrimination and judgement? This is my view. It makes perfect sense.

The same cannot be said of Leftism. Here is the point I wanted to make: as an atheistic doctrine, leftism cannot make appeal to any non-empirical entities or forces. Practically, they use "history" as such a force, in much the same way ignorant biologists use "evolution", as if it could have a teleology without a consciouness behind it.

Given this, the faith we are required to maintain is one based upon falsifiable empirical claims. They claim that their doctrine liberates mankind. What is their evidence? Surely one would look to places where their aims have been achieved. What about Cuba? They did everything they were supposed to. And they are miserable.

What about less ambitious projects, say the urban renewal of Detroit? Failures, Utter and complete failures. $16 trillion in to the War on Poverty we have made NO PROGRESS. In fact, we are backsliding. We destroyed the nuclear family, destroyed the social structures which were contained in it, and ruined the lives of many millions.

Islam can only prevail is if we collapse culturally. It can only prevail if we are so effete and tired that we WANT it to prevail.

Leftism is another matter. In a world filled with examples of man's inhumanity to man, Leftism is the final challenge. It is the counter-moral narrative which is ripping us apart, and sundering us from our Liberal roots, and sense of personal moral balance.

And it is demonstrably wrong, on its own merits. It makes no appeal to another world. It claims it can make this world better, and has been TRIED many times. It always fails, because it lacks an underlying, genuinely moral narrative. They want to make people honest by making it impossible to be dishonest. This is simply not how it works. It is like trying to force people to be happy at gunpoint.

If we can get past this hurdle, then Islam will be a piece of cake. That is a big "if", though. Do more people want their freedom than want it taken away? It is an open question.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Piece on inflation, and deflation

For unknown reasons, a message on this piece just vanished from my in-box, so I'm going to make a public admission here that for one of the first times ever, someone has read my work, and understood it well enough to offer substantive and valid criticism.

I want to admit, here, that the fourth piece in my five piece argument is by far the weakest. Frankly, it needs some work. It is the only one I don't feel will necessarily hold up in a strong wind. I write so much I exhaust myself, but I think part of the reason is that my thinking is fuzzy.

Who DOES benefit from deflation? Is it accurate to say banks hate it? I think it would depend on what kind of bank. In the leadup to the Great Depression, the Fed made money easy for banks to get. Beginning in about 1928, it pulled back. Then it kept pulling back even after the Stock Market crash, then it kept pulling back even after unknown persons or nations began making a run on our gold. They said it was to protect the currency, but for all we know it was banks in the system buying up the gold. Nobody tracked that stuff. I don't think they do even now.

What happened? Banks were faced with an asset portfolio based on loans that were increasing in value steadily, pari pasu with deflation, but which for that exact reason were going into default in record numbers. Those banks that were part of the Federal Reserve System--to be clear, the big banks, by and large--were able to get the on-going capital to stay afloat. Those who weren't, went out of business. Less banks would seem a desirable goal for would-be "cartelists".

Thus, all things need to be contextualized. I should add too that I think my differentiation of monetary and price deflation is worth underscoring. Monetary deflation is something that the Fed, the superrich, and banks do. They pull money out and warehouse it. Only those with huge surpluses can afford to simply sit on their cash. People who have hidden it in their mattress need to spend it sooner or later just to survive. By and large only those able to create money can afford to "hoard" it. Inflation and deflation are the evil twins which characterize what the Austrians call the business cycle, and what I term Monetary Mercantilism.

Price deflation, on the other hand, presumes a fixed amount of currency which increases in value as material goods become more widely available as a result of innovation. This type of deflation is seen, as an example, in the steadily increasing amount of computer power you can get for the same money. It should apply, more or less, to everything we buy; although for some things--like food--we may not want only efficiency.

Anyway, if that person sees this, this is my response. It's the only one I'm able to make, without an email address.

What I meant to say. . .

Some of these posts come out, in my own self perception, like music on a radio station that is just slightly out of tune.

Walking up our local Main Street today, it occurred to me to contrast the colorfulness of Picasso--his radical whimsy, and, I'm told, genius--with his radical political views. Why is it that so many of the more creatively inclined people embrace a doctrine which would sideline or kill them if it ever came into power, if they did anything but toe the Party line?

I have said before that leftism represents a meaning system for those who lack one. At the same time, I think the progression is--in their self assessment--a positive one. If Capitalism is grey and banal, and utterly preoccupied with the unheroic, prosaic elements of human life, then SURELY ending it would cause the creation of something better. I think this is the logic.

Yet, to fail to plan is to plan to fail. They understand centralized economic planning, but they neglect the necessity of centralized cultural planning too, the propaganda and forced silences which attend the project. All logic and factual history to the contrary, they somehow keep the faith that from the overthrow of the existing social order something beneficial will come. Patently, the logic goes, since our system is so flawed ANYTHING must be better. Anyone who fails to understand that Regression and Progression are both versions of change needs to redo grammar school.

And we see this sort of criticism everywhere. We see aging radicals get all teary eyed when they talk about the brave civil rights marchers in Selma or wherever, then in the next breath praise the Cuban regime, which has inflicted and continues to inflict far worse tortures on its inhabitants than were ever dreamed of by the slave-holders. Self evidently, the curse of poverty lays across the Cuban landscape, unnecessarily.

It is in this spirit that we should take this comment, which is utterly out of character for Keynes in its candor: When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many psuedo-moral principles which have hagridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues.

By this he means the greed for money of the Capitalists, which is for them vastly inferior to their own greed for power. This argument is unassailable, for the simple reason that they jettion reason itself to reach this conclusion. Once adopted, it is beyond debate.

Only a willful fool could fail to see that Keynes was sympathetic to the Fabian Socialist aims of his life-long comrades, most notably his mentor George Bernard Shaw. To him we can attribute most of the decrease in personal savings that has progressed for the better part of 60 years, and which has made us, in our debt, so vulnerable in so many ways.

More generally, though, this is the template. Keynes and his Bloomsbury group had great fun mocking Victorian morality, which in their case is equivalent to saying "any coherentm non-ironic set of behavioral standards whatsoever". Yet from this flowed nothing of social value, and much that has damaged and continues to damage our social fabric, and the enthusiasm with which we embrace life, and particularly our shared life together.

From Picasso's bold yellows emerge wraiths of grey, enfolding everything they touch in the smoke of intellectual loathsomeness and moral tranquility even in the face of monstrous atrocities.

Cultural Resources

I was thinking today about the frequent banality of Capitalism. It's all about the pursuit of the almighty dollar. It is a near perfect system for the creation and distribution of material goods, but a poor means for distributing cultural goods. By this I mean a sense of meaning, of purpose. Making money, alone, is a terrible reason for living. Once you have met your basic needs, it's not hedonism, it's not principled, it's just a type of collecting, no different in principle than collecting model airplanes, with the caveat that what is normally desired is the power that money buys.

Now, an intact cultural system, when subjected to determined attack, will of necessity respond through change. Free markets have been attacked by socialists. What this does is cause a reaction such that where things were relatively unquestioned before, an elaborate "theology" has to be created to defend against such attacks. This has the effect of causing people to become dogmatic and inflexible.

This is what religious fundamentalism is. Where people in antiquity no doubt tolerated any number of aberrations (you don't read about them, because they weren't noted down)--imperfect replication being a symptom of a creative, organic social order--once the theology is created to counter the heretics, the stage is set for an unyielding rigidity of thought and action.

There is a clear homology, in my mind, between the socialist goal of abolishing both wealth and poverty, and the cultural totalitarian's goal of abolishing behavioral difference.

This led to the question: what cultural system DOES best allocate cultural resources? The answer is Liberalism, of the John Stuart Mill variety, in which people are free to speak their mind, to engage in debate, and to vote their opinions as far as governance. Just as people can meet freely to engage in trade, so too can individuals meet to express their views. And just as wealth increases as trade increases, so too does understanding as debate increases, given people with the character to hew to the truth.

Leftist counter-debate narratives--their efforts to shut the process of free inquiry down--are thus simply the cultural counterpart to their efforts to shut down trade.

Socialism is pure destruction, in its pure form. In its most benign manifestations the damage is delayed across generations, and in its most destructive forms it has caused more death than any set of ideas in human history.

There are those in Washington who, for all practical purposes, want us to sell our souls to them.

Precondition for "Peace"Talks

The Israelis need to demand, as a preconditino to talks, that the descendants of the refugees of the 1948 War which the Arabs lost reject their so-called "right" of return. They left their land voluntarily--admittedly in a condition of war, but one which was not started by the Israelis--and have since been calling for the destruction not just of the Jewish nation, but of the Jews IN it for at least 50 years.

They can't get it. Even if somehow the logistics could be worked out, that would be national suicide for the Israelis. The situation is analogous to that which would obtain if the Cherokees suddenly started demanding the return of their ancestral homelands. Actually, the Cherokee have the better case, as they were driven from their lands by force. The refugees of the 1948 War, by and large, were not. And certainly there was no concerted effort on the part of the Jews to ethnically cleanse their land. Many Arabs remained, and they are part and parcel of Jewish society. They are practicing Muslims in a Jewish nation. As such, they are afforded more legal rights and freedom of conscience than Arabs in any other land, with the possible exception of Iraq.

I have been watching this theatrical farce for as long as I can remember, when some Secretary of State, in the interests of "peace", will convene a conference, in which both sides feel the need to pretend they can reach accomodations, and which invariably ends either in failure, or Israeli concessions which are promptly abused by the refugees.

It is my sincere opinion that if Western media had a shred of honor, and the capacity for the use of intelligence in their assessments, that we could have seen whatever peace is possible emerge 30 years ago.

As things stand, no one wants to call a spade a spade and admit that the core sticking point is the "right" of return, and that it can never be granted, and that therefore any conference which does not admit this in advance, will ALWAYS be doomed to failure.

Only an idiot would claim otherwise. Manifestly, we have many idiots, though--particularly in the US and Europe--and many in high places.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

That was good, now go again harder.

It seems to me that many conservatives are happy about the Tea Party wins. They should be, but they need to have this image in their mind: our foe is tough, experienced, well financed, and THEY HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO.

Leftists--the people we really oppose--have been tricking moderates and ordinary, well meaning people into voting their agenda since at least Johnson, and I would argue we need to send it at least to FDR.

They own our universities. They own our high schools. They do not own our churches, business leadership (with the exception of some very large, very powerful corporations, mostly on the left coast), and ordinary adult citizenry.

What we have to do is look at this--for this season--as a two stage conflict. Let us imagine ourselves as Greek Warriors, who have just thrown back our enemy. We have them on their heels. Yet, they are going to counterattack, and we need to meet them with everything we have. It is not enough just to "not get complacent". It is not enough to coast. We need to go balls out and get as much mileage from this historical opportunity as we can, and then KEEP GOING.

Whether we pick up a bunch of seats in Congress or not in November, we still have to deal with a populace that by and large has been brainwashed its entire life, that thinks that if something is desirable, you can just charge it to your credit card, as if the bill will never come due. They want to act as if nice people always finish first just because they are nice. They don't want to think about their childrens future, or their grandchildrens future. The baby boomers, arguably, are the most selfish generation in American history, and quite possibly in human history. They are pathological narcissists, utterly unwilling to admit that the world does not revolve around them, and their pet illusions of how the world is.

Yet, in some ten years, the interest on the national debt will exceed the Defense Department budget. In some 15 years, we will be paying the equivalent of the national GDP just to fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in their current forms.

Is it intelligent to wait until problems have ripened into catastrophes to deal with them? Obama has already cut Medicare. But he increased taxes elsewhere, not least in the hidden form of increasing the costs of insurance companies, such that they have to pass them along, or go bankrupt. If anyone is unclear with respect to the plan, he does in fact want them to go bankrupt, so we can adopt a plan in which we lose virtually all the choice we currently have, penalize doctors for going into the field, lose a high percentage of our specialists, bring innovation to a halt, and shrink the amount of healthcare available, which would include hospitals, doctors offices, and all forms of medical testing.

We get a worse outcome, and we pay more for it. This is pretty close to a definition of stupidity.

Yet, what we have to realize--and this is the core point of this post--is that leftists ARE NOT INTERESTED IN OUTCOMES. They don't CARE if they help the world. They don't CARE if they make things worse. It all has to do with the maintenance of a personal meaning system, of a reason to believe, of a reason to live. Their political creed is a religion.

In actual religion, faith is necessary because we can't perceive God directly. In their creed, faith is necessary because everything they touch turns--visibly--to shit, yet they keep doing it.

They NEED their religion. They will fight hard for it. We need to fight harder back. We have the high ground--we are defending the defensible--but countless battles that were "won" have been lost in the end.

Push with facts. Push with reason. We can't let up until the collective enchantment that has fallen over so many lands lifts.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chakras, Part 2

It occurred to me after I hit post yesterday that I didn't explain the title. Most people are familiar with the term from Hindu mysticism, which posits that we have energy "centers" at key points in our body. I'm an agnostic on that, although I do often feel what feels like energy going through my forehead. There is no need, in my view, to make a firm decision either way, so I don't.

The root, though, as I understand it, is the Sanskritic word for discus, or wheel. It is intended to connote something round which spins.

I think this is a useful metaphor for all human social systems. I view the individual personality, for example, as a sort of smoke or water "chakra". It is a system in motion with attributes. "Joe", for example, is a system in motion that is mostly "brown", with flecks both of grey and white. One can imagine standing in the stream of this "smoke" or water--something that spreads and contracts imprecisely--and feeling, seeing, smelling, and hearing differing sounds, but in patterns. Certain combinations recur regularly, certain tendencies and systemic habits recur not quite at regular intervals, but regularly. This is the "essence" of Joe.

This is a metaphor for the chaotic system, in which the system is non-linear, and formally complex, but nonetheless when someone says "you know how Joe IS", we generally know what they are talking about. There may be things about Joe we don't know, which would radically alter our opinion about him, but in his interactions with us, we see what things he tends to like doing, his opinions about sports and politics and religion, his work ethic, how he treats the opposite sex, and children, and the elderly, and minorities. We create really a set of data points, such as a comment he made many years ago, and insert it into our narrative about who Joe "is".

Now, no formally complex system can ever be reduced to a box. They don't fit in boxes, unless the box is so large that individual nuance is lost. Joe is an American. That can mean a lot of things.

The difference between judgement and prejudice is "have you tried to stand in that stream?" Have you tried to proverbially walk in his shoes? Formally chaotic systems have points of recurrence, called "strange attractors". When you look at a visual plot of some them--here are some examples--what I am intending so say is that if you understood "Joe" perfectly, that is what he would look like. He would be a form which was multi-dimensional and--what they can't capture here--in motion, such that the lines in movement--really, the gases, since there are no lines involved--would drift towards and away from their supposed bounds regularly, but not so much that you couldn't discern the basic structure.

In my view, your qualitative structure--your "strange attractor" self--is a function of the principles by which you choose to live your life. Everyone chooses something. Some choose self indulgence, or self importance, or power, or love, or friendship, or duty. Everyone chooses a combination of values, which are valued differently at different times. Normally there is a relative hierarchy--such as country above family above self. Such hierarchies, with respect to who people "really" are, are only expressed through action, not words.

As has been said by some wit, most people have two reasons for what they do: the stated one, and the real one.

Chakras exist on all qualitative levels. They vary is size. There are family dynamics--the Smiths are happy, the Jones are dysfunctional (another favorite quote of mine is that the only normal family is the one you don't know very well)--church dynamics, corporate dynamics, sports team dynamics, communist dynamics, State dynamics, national dynamics, regional dynamics, and perhaps even global dynamics. Western philosophical ideas have permeated most of the world. All African nations that are not working towards Sharia are targeting roughly Western forms of government. The Chinese have based their nation on a combination of what most would call Marxism, and free enterprise. As a practice, of course, trade is scarcely Western, but as an economic ideology, it is. Most all nations previously practiced something like what I call Mercantilism, where insiders get the sweetheart deals, and competition outside the literal market is forbidden.

Chakra is thus a descriptive term. I also use it in the sense of what I have elsewhere called a Qualitative Tumbler, as something projected "out there" (Captain quotation mark today) that provokes qualitative change in the system so "attacked". A friend of mine was telling me about a drill they did in, I think, Scuba School, where two men got one snorkel, and were only allowed to breathe one at a time, which meant they had to cooperate, and keep their cool. They held on to one another via a Roman handshake, such that this theoretically would have worked in the dark. Once they got it down, they were attacked my instructers, who tried both to tear them apart, and to make them panic. Not pleasant, but panicking in a surf zone in enemy territory would be yet more ugly.

Whether we realize it or not, most of us progress alone in intermittent conditions of understanding and confusion. The world is in constant change, and one scarcely needs to look far to find people interpreting the world through outdated lenses, as seen, for example, in those for whom FDR is a hero, and the Vietnam War a tragic mistake (more on that in a moment).

Two men together are more sturdy than each would be alone. Let me posit symbolically, then, that your "partner" is a deep seated, principled committment to learning the real truth of a situation, to the extent you can. As you are attacked, you will fare better over time, than someone who is overwhelmed, and lets go.

Let us posit that your committment, instead, is to another actual person. Let us say that person wants you to go somewhere else, and uses the tumbling of the tides or instructors to gradually ease both of you far, far away. In what we call a trackless ocean, for the sake of clear symbolism, you have no means of fighting this.

Let us further say that your goal is to reach the shore, where the shore is meaningful personal growth. If you attach yourself to a principle, then despite the pummelling of the sea, you can gradually make your way to the shore. If you attach yourself to a person, then if they are loving, and care about you, then they, too will stabilize and guide you (guru literally means "heavy", and I have often thought the image to be conveyed was something like a ballast in a boat, or an anchor in a storm). If they have other ideas, you will find yourself far at sea.

In the end, you have to decide, and in the end even the decision as to who to trust has to be a peronal one. Perception, always, is personal, even if people choose to walk in lockstep with others.

This is an analogy that needs some work, but the main image I want to convey is a system in motion, being impacted by a stream of different motion, which sets it off course, at least briefly, and sometimes permanently.

I was thinking this morning about the first encounter of school children with what we might term American "Imperfectionism", which is the doctrine that since some people seem to be claiming we are perfect, and we aren't (slavery, Jim Crow, slaughter of Indians, etc.), then we are bad. This is a stupid doctrine, taught by stupid people, but a casual reading of history readily shows that stupidity has wings.

The first time kids watch "Roots", for example, they are permanently molded in ways which some players in our current political landscape are careful to use. And at that moment, a sort of qualitative horizon opens up, which says that if we are capable of that, what else are we capable of? Maybe it's Americans that are the bad ones, and everyone else the good ones. Particularly if just kids remain ignorant of the history of everyone else, this is a standpoint which can be lasting. This is a result of a qualitative tumbler, or Chakra.

As I have said often, if we judge ourselves by our own stated standards, we fall far short. If we judge ourselves in comparison to the objective history of every other nation on the Earth, we fare exceedingly well. We truly are exceptional.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chakras

I'll stop with the morbid stuff for a while. I just sort of watch breezes blow through me, one direction, then another. I've tried to stop it, but it takes a lot of effort, and it doesn't work. So I roll with it.

Thoughts, it seems to me, are like little machines. They operate on the level of computation, of concrete structures, of things that are, to each individual consciousness, there, and not somewhere else. This is perhaps a bit confusing, since this thought, itself, it coming from somewhere else. It is intuition.

What I try to do is throw thoughts out there. I visualize them, when they hit--when they are read and digested--as little self organizing machines, like Transformers. They affect everyone differently. Some might steel people against me. Others, win them over. Others, lead in a new or old pathway of thought.

Always, we stay in motion. As long as thoughts are moving around, and as long as people are trying to make sense of the world, progress is always possible.

On that score, I think most of us can easily enough visualize one cataclysm or another. Yet, if we can do that, why not a Euclysm, if that works from the Greek? Why not a renewal? Why not a miracle? They do happen.

Random musings, after a workout, listening to "California Stars".

Indestructive clothes and Death as art

It's interesting: I came up with this idea on my own, of clothes which never needed to be washed, and which never wore out, and Doris Lessing dealt with the same topic in Mara and Dann. There, her protagonist Mara found your singlet inhuman, and horrible, since it was the same year after year, and apparently century after century, in apparent contradiction to the way of the world. The same people built indestructible metal houses, and cans and other implements that likewise never wore out.

In a morbid segue that just popped in my head, what about human bodies that never decay? As most will have seen in some ad in some magazine, human bodies can now be made into "art" through a plasticizing process that halts the normal process of material decay. I find it revolting. Based on a conversation I had with a woman in a plane, these displays also feature babies, from the fetus stage, up to fully developed babies.

Is this wrong? First off, I wonder where they get the bodies. All of these people had names, and lives. The woman I talked with commented they all looked Asian. Is North Korea selling bodies, I wonder? With as much death as has happened there, I see no ethical objection to it which would arise within their particular cultural milieu.

It then occurred to me: how far does this go? Do we place bodies as permanent fixtures in art museums? They have them in the Museum of Science and Industry, as anatomical displays. Could we have "Human head in blue, number 7?" Can collectors install them in their living rooms? Does a trade develop, as it apparently has, in body parts, the provenance of which no one knows?

There is something sick about this, reminiscent of that scene in Brave New World, where they run the bodies by the children, to inoculate them from the fear of death.

What is it these "artists" are trying to accomplish? What positive good?

It would seem at a minimum if we are to allow these displays--and they are hugely sucessful wherever they go--we should know who the people on display are, and that they granted the use of their bodies as "art".

It has long seemed to me that many of our most creative artistic minds have been deranged by ethical relativism, and moral pessimism and nihilism. This was what Ginsburg was "Howl"-ing about in his poem.

How do we make this turn back towards decency and purpose? This is a critical question. Science cannot speak to cultural formations. It can describe, but not prescribe. That is what our reason and our passions are for.

What comes, goes. What was, will one day be no more. It was the violation of this truth that Lessing seems authentically, in her imagination, to have found so abominable. Plastic bodies seem, to me, to exist in the same space, to which we can add numerous other objections.

Goodness is wild

Evil is tame because there are only a certain number of emotional possibilities. Goodness is wild, in that you can wander wherever you want, as there are no boundaries. It is much more creative, and has a much greater possible experiential range. People miss this since evil people can do anything they want, but in their inner lives they are quite dull. They are “Rote-arian”. They are creatures of habit, and it is like poking someone in the same place over and over, or a record that gets stuck in one spot. It is anger expressed in countless ways, countless times. This is the root of Arendt's "banality of evil".

I read "Eichman in Jerusalem", by the way, and found it vastly overrated. I think that's where she coined the phrase. That was many years ago, though, so perhaps my memory is faulty.

Edit: I do have a job, for what it's worth, which varies from few to too many hours a week. I'm currently in the few period, and taking some notes off my voicemail, which is why there are so many posts. I just figured out how to cut and paste them, too. You can't normally do it in Compose, but you can in Edit HTML.

First, empty the cup

The first step in adding information to a system is adding the idea that information CAN be added. If I offer up a proposal for fixing something, it may be rejected in its entirety--it may in fact be stupid no matter how enthusiastic I am about it--but it could cause someone else to come up with a completely different, better proposal, but one which would not have existed had I not started the process. This is an important qualitative point.

Most speech has two components: the overt part, and the implications. If, for example, I say someone is intelligent, it necessarily implies that not all people are intelligent. It implies I am capable of recognizing intelligence. It implies there is in fact such a thing as intelligence, and so on.

Savings and Capitalism

Anyone who saves and invests their money is a Capitalist. This would be hairstylists who buy and sell their own haircare products on the side, or mechanics who save up enough to open their own garage, or of course industrialists who open a second or third or fourth factory.

Capital is savings. Given this, the extent to which we are a Capitalist society is the extent to which we operate on savings, to which we self finance. On that score, we do quite poorly, currently. How do we finance things? We borrow money.

I can't overemphasize this: by creating money, banks create unearned ownership in private enterprise, and move us away from actual savings--through inflation and easy credit--and thus away from true Capitalism, as they exist today.

As I repeat often, I have proposed an overhaul of the system, which retains banks, but as Capitalist institutions, which build wealth for all, rather than takea share of it, in effect, for free.

The foundational element of wealth building is creation. It is creating new things, new processes, new distribution systems. Our system does foster these things, but we don't see as much of the benefits as we ought to, since they are siphoned off.

Marx was not fully wrong, but he grossly misunderstood the nature of what he termed Capital, which in many of the cases was nothing of the sort. Borrowed money is not Capital, if it was created by the institution lending it. It is a leak in the system, which depressurizes it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cultural Organizing

The point of the sort of thing our current President did in Chicago is to cultivate anger and a sense of grievance, such that you can assemble people at a certain place and time, get them to think the same things, say the same things, and do the same things. This is called "community organizing", but in reality, the intent is to create a homogeneous and responsive group that responds to the commands of the organizer. There is nothing organic about it. It is, frankly, a version of Leninism, and is only a thin shade of grey away from Marxist "consciousness building", if it is even that.

To that I would contrast what might be called Cultural Organizing. This is a non-manipulative effort to put information and ideas in front of people, such that they react to them. What you do is create the possibility of creative reorganizations in individuals and groups, without directing it. You put information out there, and wait to see what happens.

The path to a good future lies in the pursuit of generalized virtue. We can't know, specifically, what twists and turns our nation and the world will take, but if people build on sound basic principles, in aggregate the outcome will be good.

As the deduction of information--of local, individual opinion, doubt, perception, and decision--so called Community Organizing is the opposite of this. Where Cultural Organizing is spontaneous, Community Organizing is planned. Where Cultural Organizing seeks to distribute power as widely as possible, Community Organizing seeks to focus it.

Crux of the problem

We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

When people say we are broke, the problem is not current cash flow. It's not that we can't pay our bills. We can always print or borrow money to do that. That's what we've been doing since the New Deal.

The problem is that in, say, 10 years, we will--on our current trajectory--be paying out more in benefits than we earn as a nation. As he points out later in the piece, what can't go on, will stop.

Now, I don't know and really don't care exactly how numbers like $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities are calculated. What they are doing is multiplying an annual deficit by an arbitrary number of years. The important fact is that we will be spending more than we take in, and doing it year after year after year for decades. When the interest is added in--and the rates we have to pay will continue to increase as we add debt, if the notes aren't bought by the Fed, which can be inflationary, depending on how they do it.--we will at some point have to go into draconian taxes, or massive inflation. This is the rough process by which Argentina imploded, albeit over a much shorter number of years. You can live well on credit for a time, sometimes a long time, but bills come due.

Social Security is and always has been not just an "intergenerational Ponzi scheme", as Reagan called it, but one which had as a principle intent the socialization of retirement in particular, and private savings in general.

The net is that we have to radically alter our trajectory. Not only that, but in my view we need to implement something like my plan, which could be viewed as democratized, planned hyperinflation. We need to get the house in order. We need to relocalize our economic and political life, then load up the financial guns, and slay the dragon, once and for all. It can be done. It's a question of will and knowledge. Knowledge will feed will, so the more truth we see floating around, the more likely our story will have a happy ending for the foreseeable future.

Periodic Krugman piece

Here's his latest.

Thesis: rich people are driving the Tea Party, and they are selfish and self indulgent. Inference: we should hate them.

"Evidence": taxes were higher under Clinton and we balanced the budget. Oh, and that the super-rich are just bad people. Let me underscore that. They are nothing like you--whoever you are plebian scum if you are a Teabagger, and bless your heart if you agree with me, as any sensible person would--and me, guru to the world.

Commentary: Krugman rarely goes more than 2 columns in a row without demanding a stimulus of some sort, which is equivalent to a demand for deficit spending. What he wants, in other words, is to borrow money from the Chinese and wealthy elites, and raise taxes on people who make money in America.

Contrary to what he leads people to believe, the super-rich BENEFIT from our deficit spending. They lend us the money. Not infrequently, they create the money to loan us from scratch, via their close pal the Fed.

The people Krugman is demonizing pay the vast bulk of taxes ALREADY. The top 10% pay some 70% of the taxes, and that percentage WENT UP under Bush. The rates went down, and actual net dollar receipts WENT UP. This is what is predicted by Supply Side (aka Anti-Keynesian) Economics. The deficit went up because WE SPENT MORE MONEY. If I'm going too quick, just reread what I wrote. Prior to the tax cuts, they just kept their money elsewhere, or they didn't invest it at all. And it is worth reiterating that 40% of Americans pay no incomes taxes at all.

What we need are jobs. Only the private sector can create sustainable jobs, and if Krugman were anything but a hack he would publicly admit it. Krugman very literally uses every chance he gets to use his bully pulpit to propagate ideas which are not only not helpful, but DAMAGING to our economy. We got to where we are by listening to devious people like him.

The reality is that American businesses are sitting on a huge pile of cash. They COULD invest it in sustainable private sector jobs, but only if they can be assured that our President isn't going to run us off the Left side of the cliff. They lack that assurance currently, as Jack Welch, among many others, has recently commented. I was talking with a very successful financial advisor yesterday, who said the same thing: the people with the power to hire people are scared.

Krugman, of course, wants to make this into an us versus them debate. It is the angry rich--who are in a world of their own--and everyone else. The common folk, like him. Well, not exactly like him--somebody has to be IN CHARGE--but you get the basic idea.

The reality, again, is that the Tea Party is Main Street. It is common sense. It is recognizing that you can't tax your way into prosperity, that you can't denigrate business and create jobs at the same time, and that we are going bankrupt rapidly, again as a result of policies Krugman advocates every chance he gets.

He mentions D'Souza's claims about Obama, but he makes it clear that only THEY could possibly give them any credence. People like him--and his sophisticated readers--can simply go pish posh, who could possibly be that dumb? It must be racism. It must be that "Angry White Male Syndrome" (AWMS: you heard it here first), which will presumably be in DSM-V, and which is just hate, hate, hate. And since you can hate the haters, this is a win-win situation. You don't have to understand them, since they are "haters". You can just let lose with every pet prejudice and latent vicious impulse you want, and you will be FULLY justified. If you ever doubt yourself, just top off at your local ideological gas station.

To be clear, if this were a debate, D'Souza's proposition carries with no opposition, as unrecognized, unrefuted, and still quite viable.

All in all, if Mr. Krugman were capable of shame, this would be a good time to feel it. Since that proposition is quite dubious, let me suggest that he debate the actual people who oppose him, rather than cast them as cartoons, and use those crude caricatures to divide us one from the other, and all of us from anything even approaching a reasoned, dispassionate analysis of our problems.

What art should focus on

I try to never diagnose problems without offering solutions. While identifying problems is the starting point, focusing on them and not solutions is a species of whining, which is against my code of conduct.

If, as I posit often, the development of Goodness revolves around the rejection of self pity, the cultivation of perseverance in the face of difficulty, and an unrelenting commitment to understanding, then our art should focus on developing these traits.

Obviously, most hero films involve the first two. To them, though, I would add an emphasis on developing a sense of nuance, of place, of context, of empathy. I would add a focus on beauty and the spiritual.

One of my favorite film directors is Andrei Tarkovsky. As an adult ready to understand what he was trying to do, I have only seen two of his films: Nostalgia, and the Sacrifice. There is a passion for beauty and transcendance in both of them that lingers. I think he was half mad, but only such people can see deeply enough to be lastingly useful. I like to think of myself as useful, and sometimes I think I'm a bit off my rocker, but it's hard to say. I'm distinctive, I will say that.

Anyway, I've posted a few thoughts on art and architecture here, here. I know there are more, but I can't find them at the moment. I am overwhelmed sometimes by how much I write. What's on here is a fraction of what I have that I haven't posted.

The Dexter murder and mass media

In response to criticisms of media violence, we see several threads of argument. One is that the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of expression. This is true, but as the most articulate advocate of the freedom of speech--John Stuart Mill, in "On Liberty"--pointed out, the freedom of speech includes the freedom to condemn the "speech" of others. As long as no one is trying to ban Horror films, this argument is moot.

Let me offer a thought experiment, though. We have the technology to build virtual worlds. What if one use to which computer software is put--and I have no doubt this thought has occured to some minds, so I don't think I'm giving anyone any ideas here, hopefully--is the creation of software in which you torture, virtually, other people? What if you could input a picture of someone you hate, say a boss or ex-lover, and put a blow torch to her, or cut her with a knife, or chainsaw?

Should such software be banned? What if you can do it in 3D, or virtual reality? One can readiliy imagine the harm that would come from this, and I can see no good.

Another argument used is "it's not like people will watch this then go out and kill somone". This simply isn't true. It is not common, but it happens. In that link, you will read about a teenage boy who was a huge fan of the show Dexter, and who strangled his ten year old brother because he wanted to be like him. Ponder that for a moment.

What I think we can see there, first, is that the real message of the show is violence. Yes, it is violence against the "wicked", but so were, ostensibly, the pogroms against the Jews. The question is "are you starting with the desire for justice, or the desire to harm others, and a need to justify it"?

Justice, so called, is in many respects a socially sanctioned expression of hatred. If someone kills someone you love, you want pain inflicted on them. If the State--which is supposed to be dispassionate, as it has not suffered directly--does not do it, then people take the law into their own hands. I think one could, with study, readily perceive the growth of vigilante films pari passu with the triumph of Leftist silliness in the court system.

Think about most action movies. Do we not have to establish the evil bona fides of the villain early on, through some horrible act of violence, and then the cowardice, incompetence, and general uselessness of the State, so that we can root for our hero? Think Dirty Harry, or Die Hard, or any Rambo movie. The pattern is formulaic, and playing in pretty much every theater in the world year round.

Do we really want to see "justice" done, or do we simply want a good excuse to see people getting blown up? Clearly, the element of the hero, who triumphs againsts all odds (generally through what the realistic of us would readily recognize as a ridiculously improbably deus ex machina miracle delivered for dramatic effect) is in many respects salutary. Americans are not physical cowards, and we have countless role models for this. Yet, in the end, is this really helpful?

As Samuel Johnson pointed out centuries ago: "God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over." The job of justice is not determining whether someone is fundamentally good or evil. In some cases, the evidence seems pretty clear, but one can never know who someone "really" is. Most all human beings are a mixture of good and evil. In my view, the BTK murderer got himself caught on purpose. He had two selves: one with a conscience, and one committed to cruelty.

I really like Spider Man 2 in this regard. The "villain" is both good and evil. [side bar, I really like it too for teaching the rejection of self pity, and doing what is right no matter what].

Cartoonish violence teaches cartoonish understandings (ironically, actually, Spider Man was not cartoonish in that regard). It teaches us us/them, good/evil dichotomies, when we really don't see them in the world.

The inversion of this, of course, is to treat everyone as good, and ignore the reality of evil. Both approaches are wrong because they don't conform to visible reality. Evil exists. So does good. Decisions must always be contextual, and oriented around maximizing good, and minimizing evil. Sometimes overwhelming violence is needed to, paradoxically, minimize violence. Sometimes gradualism is the only viable approach. Dialogue is always preferred, but it only works with people who are amenable to reason.

In my view, justice is a pragmatic question: how do we minimize violence, and maximize peace, consistent with all men being equal before the [God's, if you will] law?

One final point: evidence is clear and incontrovertible that media violence has three general effects on most people and particularly children. The following points are taken from the book "Viewing Violence", by Madeline Levine.

1) It encourages aggression. Kids watch pro wrestling, and try the moves on each other, occasionally with tragic consequences. People are more prone to the fight or flight response, to avoiding the dialogue and negotiation response. In the Dexter case, it led directly to literal murder.

2) It promotes desensitization. One cannot post long on shared message boards without noting the emotional flatness and lack of nuance from many posters, particularly young kids. In my view, by age 13 or so, if empathy has not been learned, it may never be learned. And watching death after death after death, and gruesome murder after murder (CSI, NCIS and many others) causes children to withdraw their natural sympathy to the pains of others. There is a part of your brain that processes media violence as real violence. It doesn't distinguish. Many soldiers, after seeing combat for the first time, comment "it was just like the movies".

And in point of fact, many video games use technology quite similar to that developed to teach soldiers to overcome their innate tendency to sympathize with the human beings they were pointing guns at. In many of our wars, men would literally be in life or death situations, and unable to bring themselves to cause the death of their enemies. Realistic simulations fixed that. They no longer thought of their enemies as human beings; they became simply targets.

In combat, you can't think of people as people. But the reality is that if those soldiers sat down together, in many cases they would find common ground. They would find that the reasons their enemies offered for fighting made sense to them, and that given that person's circumstances, they might well made the same decision.

Be that as it may, we are teaching children to blunt and even eradicate their natural moral restraint. For it, we all too often substitute slogans. "Tolerance" is the moral restraint of those who lack all other reference points.

3) Long term exposure to media violence causes increases in the rate of depression. I think this can easily be linked to the desensitization. When you are exposed daily, hourly to scenes of horrific betrayals of trust, how can you be open to those around you? How can you have faith in the fundamental decency of others, when you have seen what is possible?

This in turn causes social isolation, or blunted, superficial relations with others, which cause the sense of aloneness to be even more pronounced. This is the root of school shootings, which seem largely to have declined through more aggressive attention to the signs, rather than through a decrease in the desire of troubled young kids to engage in them.

Have you been that person flipping through the channels at 3 in the morning, with nothing but violence and sappy comedies to choose from? Have you not felt that sense of cardboardness, of unreality, of plastic, of detachment? This is the sentiment, too, of porn, which is related to this whole complex.

Net, net: it is abundantly clear that most of the media most of our children consume is not only not good for them, but actively working to build a society of detached emotional robots. Even if someone wants to claim that what they watch is not bad for them, should we not be asking what is good for them? Should we not be using the time people spend consuming media to build them up, to focus on a better world?

That is my opinion.

Ersatz sacred

Edit: I'm reading through this for the first time since I wrote it, and it is meandering even for me. I feel like I live in a forest, a whole, but with speech I can only walk a path. I feel the big picture I am trying to convey, but in this case at least my words didn't quite do it justice. As with much of what I write, this needs to be looked at as a sketch, as a bigger thought in progress.

In the movie "Because of Winn-Dixie", we see a powerful metaphor for what I at times call the tragic sense of life in the Littmus lozenges, which we are told somehow capture both the sweetness and sadness of life. They were created by a sad veteran of the Civil War. We are told they "taste like music", and they lead Opal to the conclusion that we seem to lack the ability both to share pain as well as joy any more. Perhaps that is the best single definition of community: the capacity to share with little restraint our griefs and our exaltations.

Pain and pleasure are linked. Somehow, the latter is the greater for having suffered the former. I think it is not just the contrast--the pleasure of slaking a great thirst. That is superficial. Rather, as I have said often, pain is not cumulative. We can only take so much before becoming numb to it. What pain does is alter us qualitatively, and it can force us both in the direction of greater personal integration, love, and Goodness; and in the direction of cruelty.

The difference is in what I term a Meaning system. This is the Why in Nietzche's famous aphorism "A man with a strong enough Why can stand any How." Parents will suffer greatly for their children. Patriots will suffer for their nation. The faithful will suffer for their religion. Christianity is a Meaning System. So is Communism. If one looks at the sufferings entailed by Communist revolutionaries, it becomes clear that their "faith" was quite sincere, even if their thinking was foggy beyond belief, and arguably based on a need for the expression of cruelty--or at least power--at least in many cases. Frankly, the same likely obtained for substantial periods in the history of the Western Church as well.

What do you do when you believe nothing? What do you do when you believe that death is the end, life is pointless, and morality a lie told by self serving elites to secure for themselves greater comforts, indulgences and priviledges?

That is the question I wanted to address here. Consider the business of Kink.com. Here is New York Times piece on it. If you want to be thorough, go the site, although I will caution you the images are INTENDED to be disturbing.

It is a site dedicated to the intentional infliction of pain and discomfort. BDSM stands for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.

If you read the piece, the people who work there are outwardly normal. They work 10 to 6. They have a 401k. They sponsor events and tours. They offer health coverage, including vision.

And they spend their days tying one another up, whipping each other, and performing sex acts that are intended to be painful in a way that explicitly excludes even the possibility of the expression of affection during the act. In the end, do they like another? I would suppose so. How this works is the interesting question.

In my view, BDSM is an "ersatz sacred". I feel it is experienced by its practitioners--at least the non-sociopathic ones, and I am not accusing most of the people there of being evil--as, paradoxically, liberating. It alters their qualitative gestalt. It takes them to places which are non-mundane. It takes them, perhaps, to that place experienced by soldiers in war, who hate the war, but nonetheless find that it changes them in both useful and harmful ways. Certainly, there is nothing else like it. It makes them feel "alive". It ties in to the sexual instinct, which is one, in the end, of procreation, of generation.

It is a way of solving the problem of meaning in suburban American style: by taking a pill. I want to be clear that war, while psychologically engaging for some, is wrong. Likewise, while I don't view this as a moral issue since it is consensual and no one is (normally) permanently hurt, I do think that it is psychologically unhealthy.

In my view, we are both material and spiritual beings. We possess both natures. Our material nature is the product of our evolution. Men have a need to be dominant. Women tend, at times, to want to be submissive, to be dominated. Obviously, the roles can be and often are reversed, but I think this is a basic tendency. The women who want to be dominant are likely to be inverting a normal tendency to be submissive, or are doing what their man wants. Or perhaps they are just narcisstic and cruel, and using the need of others for submission to express what would otherwise be latent tendencies.

It's impossible to make accurate general statements across large populations, but I do think these are some of the factors in play.

More generally, I think this basic pessimism, this basic sense of meaninglessness, of purposelessness, is expressed throughout the Horror genre. Many of these films are filled with explicit, very graphic torture, rape, murder, mutilation, and--I would suppose--the totemization of the remains of the victims.

Now, a good friend of mine watches a lot of these movies. She is a particular fan of the Saw series. She has had her share of trauma in life, like the rest of us. They do not seem to bring out bad traits in her. She is a generous, warm person. Yet, she watches these movies. I have asked her why, but she is not really sure, I don't think. Somehow, it "works" for her.

In assessing these things, my innate tendency is to be judgmental, to ask what conceivable good could flow from watching people having their face burnt off with a blowtorth, or watching a naked, chained woman hanging upside down have her throat slit. These movies are most popular with kids in their teens and early twenties.

I think for some people, these things work cathartically, they recognize and release inner psychological torments they are unable to bring out in the open. As a society, we do NOT share our pain well; nor do we share our joys well. This has the effect of isolating us, which in turn causes more pain.

My next post will be on media violence, so I will try to draw this one to a close--slowly, like a Baptist preacher.

Thomas Mann, in his book "The Magic Mountain", has a scene that has stuck with me. I think it was a dream of the "protagonist", if we can call him that [interesting unrelated note: Milton Erickson said that he knew he would find some way to commit suicide after reading the first chapter]. In this dream, he sees a magical kingdom, where everyone lives in harmony and peace. As he penetrates to a temple high on the mountain, which is clearly the sacred center of the social order, he finds priests sacrificing children. If it unclear, sacre fice, is literally "an act of the sacred". How do we explain this dichotomy?

When I was in graduate school at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, I tried to convince one of my professors to let me write an essay on the religious aspects of serial murder. In some strange way, I think I foresaw the emergence of the modern "serial killer as hero" motif, seen throughout modern media. Dexter is perhaps the most obvious example, but Mr. Brooks was never punished, nor was Hannibal Lector. In some way, many of these films root for the bad guy. Saw is another obvious example. Or Freddy Krueger. Or Jason.

Vampires are another example. How do they survive? They are "dead"--they lack an inner vitality of their own--and are thus forced to survive from the lifeblood of others. This basic fact can be obscured through ruses--as in the Twilight series--by them living off of animals, or artificial blood, as in "True Blood" (I think that's the set-up; I haven't watched it). You can make them "good". Dexter only kills bad people, but all the ads work up a tension between his proclivity for murder with his fatherhood. Always, the ads have scenes of death.

To be clear, even if you are a "good" serial killer, and even if you are a "good" vampire, you are not well. You are not healthy. You are not fully human.

In the ritual process as envisional by Victor Turner, you in effect create a different sort of space and time, which consists in three states. You separate from ordinary time, and from the normal communal order. You then go through a transformative process, and finally you return, different. The most obvious example is the rite of passage seen in many societies, in which young men, especially, must undergo ordeals which not all of them survive. A good example would be the scene in 300, where Leonidas kills the wolf.

Serial killers undergo something like that. When they are about to commit a murder, they in effect enter into a fugue state, an altered state, a state outside the realms of society, decency, and restraint. They commit their murder, as animals. Then they return. It is a common habit of most of them to retain something to remember the act with. Sometimes it is a picture. Sometimes, it is a piece of the victim. Then they are back to their "normal", social selves. the "he was so quiet" selves, the "he helped me mow the lawn", and the "he helped with the "Walk to Cure Cancer" selves.

No society founded on the principle of all killing all could survive, as Hobbs pointed out long ago. Yet, many people still have bloodlust. In our own history, public hangings drew people from near and far. The rule of the guillotine was a huge success, among the mob, in France.

How do we balance this? This is the question that plagues me. We are at a stage in our history where technology is evolving at such a rate that even small groups of determined people can inflict enormous damage. Moreover, most of our public thinkers can think of no alternatives between doing what we have always done, and enacting a global tyranny, that constricts behavior through naked force.

It seems to me that what we need is a transformative force that channels our material selves into our spiritual selves. Specifically, we need an ideological foundation for qualitative movement that is positive. We must be able to turn pain into meaning, and meaning into joy and joy into love. You cannot be still. You are always moving either in the direction of hate, or the direction of love. I have called Love an aggression, and this is what I mean. It is what counteracts darkness.

You will note that in all this I have not spoken of metaphysics. I have confined myself to the visible. Here is what I believe: I believe that the material world is a foam that floats on the surface of an infinite ocean of potential reality, which contains all possible spiritual, physical, emotional and mental forms. I believe we are all connected, and that our selves exist as discrete forms first and foremost in the unseen world, and that we in effect "drive" our bodies. We are hybrid beings, much as Descartes posited, except that self evidently there is flow in both directions. I have called Consciousness "Non-statistical coherence". It is what alters the flow of the material world in non-determined ways. We are free to the extent we use our consciousness to sculpt events, and determined to the extent our bodies do the driving.

Love--a sense of connection to others, and in effect an expansion of your self--is not of this world. It is a spiritual force. Evolutionists have had trouble pinning it down since, in its highest expression, it did not arise here.

In my view, this was the message of Christ. I don't think Christian theologians conveyed his message accurately. What he intended to teach was the rejection of self pity through service and personal sacrifice, and as expressed in love. His crucifixion was not his sacrifice, it was merely the culmination of it. It was the necessary consequence of speaking a higher truth in a fallen world, and he knew it. And his resurrection showed that the Truth cannot be conquered, in the end, even though it can be made to suffer.

My vision, my ideal, my hope, is that we can build ourselves up such that all of us are willing to sacrifice for one another. Leftist politics have as their aim tearing individuals down. What I want is a politics and cultural revolution that is so sweeping that any adult in this nation could be President and do well. I want us to aggressively pursue what is best in us, and to not stop until we can live happily in peace, the world over. This has never happened, as far as we know, but simply because something has never been, does not mean it cannot be.

The foregoing was quite a bit of thinking out loud. I had to get that off my chest. Hopefully it makes sense to anyone who reads it.