Category Archives: Know Your History

In Diversity™ We Trust

Severian’s last post was on History vs the leftist narrative, specifically on Civil Rights.  Then Morgan asked on The Hello Kitty of Bloggin’,  after watching the Democrat Debates …

“Is there an agenda to popularize the Spanish language in the United States? If so, is the vision that more people should be knowledgeable about it, or that fewer people understand English? Or both?

Or, is the agenda to balkanize the country, get as many languages in active use as possible, so that there’s.more confusion, less clarity? What’s the goal here exactly?”

Well lemme ‘splain.

It’s because Diversity™, of course.  That is the whole purpose behind the United States of America.  Let’s review our history, shall we?

You see, centuries ago diversity was banned in Europe, so a bunch of enlightened people said, “Hey, I want to go somewhere where I can be diverse!”

And so they boarded rickety ships to bounce across the treacherous ocean for weeks, and when they landed they saw there were only Americans of Asian Descent (the land bridge between Asia and North America — before Lewis and Clark hegemonically traversed the continent in their SUVs).  They thought to themselves, “here, I can finally be diverse!” Indeed, Diversity™ doubled right then and there!

They wanted to be more diverse so badly that they imported brown people from diverse tribes in Africa. Sadly, in a dark era where no white person was even remotely against slavery, they were treated poorly and relegated to slavery because of a line Donald Trump had slipped into the Constitution in 1787.  This went on until JFK and the Democrats freed them in 1964. (when the Whigs and the Democrats switched sides after the Whigs lost a drunken bet with the Democrats in a bar the night before the bill was passed.)

Meanwhile people from other parts of the world had heard about this wonderful place where they, too, could come and be diverse, and they started coming… from China, from Japan, from Mexico, and the Middle East, with only the distant dream of Diversity™ on their minds.

We also created great UniDiversities to increase our knowledge and awareness of Diversity™ (especially after the Democrats freed the slaves!)

But in 1972, the Republican (aka, “Nazi”) Party was founded by Richard Nixon specifically to ban Diversity™ and put to everybody who wasn’t white into concentration camps. Fortunately, the Democrats came roaring back with Jimmy Carter in 1976, who created the Department of Education that has vastly improved Education in the United States by teaching us all to be more Diverse™.  Since then our education has become the best in the world! And! he graciously let 52 Americans be the guests of some nice Iranian students for more than a year just so they could become more diverse.

But then Ronald Reagan inexplicably won the election of 1980 (due to a clerical error at Trump, Inc*) and he immediately started a nuclear war with Russia. This was because he was not diverse and they were … well never mind, but it greatly reduced the Diversity™ in the world. Plus, Toxic Masculinity. Which is not Diverse™. Everyone should be more like women. That would be Diverse™.

After 12 years of cruel, oppressive Republican rule during which Reagan coerced some Germans to vandalize an historic, diverse wall, the great Bill Clinton was elected the First Black President™, which Americans thought finally ushered in Diversity™ once and for all.

But alas, it wasn’t to be, because G.W. Bush (aka “Hitler”) stole the election 8 years later by cleverly winning a majority of the votes in the Electoral College (like that was even legal!) and had the CIA fly planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon so that he could attack Iraq.  This was clearly because they were brown and he hated Diversity™, and also for oil. The United Nations had asked Saddam Hussein nicely 17 times to stop killing his own people, but it turned out he was doing it to reduce Iraq’s carbon footprint. Well this was the last straw (before California bravely banned them). Bush viciously attacked and removed Hussein from office because racism. And also blood for oil. Halliburton!!!! By the time he left office he personally had 100% control of all Iraqi oil, which he quickly lost to Dick Cheney (aka “Darth Vader”) in a drunken bet at a bar the night before the next election (Cheney then poured the oil all over Grand Teton National Park just so it could be drilled up again — also because he hates nature and especially fly-fishing).

After that, America came to its senses and elected Barack Obama, Savior of the Universe™, to be the Second First Black President™. Under his wise and kind rule, Americans began to get along Diversely like never before. Some people in Ferguson, Missouri even burned and looted a bunch of minority owned business just so they could get insurance money which they were owed by their former oppressors, who were now forever banished. It was almost the Paradise that Michael Moore proved Iraq was before G.W. Bush (aka “Hitler”) went in and started terrorism as we know it today (and stole all their oil).

Obama even stopped the oil that Halliburton had re-drilled out of Grand Teton from covering the Gulf of Mexico with his bare, diverse hands.

But it wasn’t to last forever. She Whose Turn It Was to be the Third Black President™ and The First Female President was stunned by her totally unfair loss to Donald Trump (aka “Hitler”), a Russian agent who was heretofore known only for grabbing pussies, and whose wife’s arms could never measure up to the previous first lady’s.  She was also an immigrant who spoke only 6 languages, plus she immigrated legally, which really isn’t very Diverse™.

She Whose Turn It Was to be the Third Black President™ graciously left her supporters waiting while she drank the entire wine supply just to save them from themselves when she gave her concession speech the next morning after drinking 163 cups of coffee in 21 minutes. This was very diverse of her. It was a sad day because this meant that no woman could ever be elected president. Ever. This was indeed confirmed when Donald Trump (aka “Hitler”) decreed it was so as he squashed a kitten under his foot, because kittens represent Diversity™. Crunch!

Hitler (aka Donald Trump) had the audacity to try to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, which included putting people who crossed the border illegally – including children — in the cages Barack Obama (Savior of the Universe™) had diversely built for people who crossed the border illegally. Building them was diverse, but actually using them for their intended purpose was not. And it was just like Auschwitz, only 50 times worser.

All brown people began leaving the United States in droves, fearing for their lives, but they were overwhelmed by the flood of poor confused brown people coming in the other direction. Why were they coming? Didn’t they know?

Ah, but this was all part of Trump’s (aka “Hitler’s”) evil plan to End Diversity™ Forever! – to cleverly keep brown people from leaving by encouraging more brown people to come in to his concentration camps. Plus he outlawed being gay, and ordered all bakers NOT to bake wedding cakes for them, and he and his evil minions began driving Democrats out of restaurants and spitting on them for being so Diverse!

Since America was founded specifically to be The Most Diversest Country, Ever!™, he must be stopped at all costs, even if it means going through the Russians to procure a fake dossier to spend two and a half years in the headlines telling everyone proof he colluded with the Russians — was JUST around the corner!

Therefore it is more important than ever that we rally around our national motto,

“In Diversity™ We Trust!”

 * This was an error on Trump’s part as a Russian agent, which proves his incompetency.
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A Brief Jaunt Through Recent History, Part II

(sequel to A Brief Jaunt Through Recent History, Part I)

Actions have consequences.  Often unintended.  And most of the time those unintended consequences aren’t good ones.

In the early 20th century, the world started dabbling in what its proponents called “progressive” ideology.  Social safety nets, short work weeks, national health care, central planning, population control, eugenic, all within the state nothing outside the state …. that sort of thing.

A few of which are great things to have to the extent you can afford them.  Europe, especially ran with it, and for a while it was easy what with them having outsourced their defense to the United States during the Cold War.

But these kinds of things ultimately turned out to be pyramid schemes which depended on the next generation always being larger than the previous so you had more paying into the system than you were paying out to.  And at first, the ratio was great.  But as people voted themselves more and more benefits and had fewer and fewer children … supporting the growing aging population with more costly programs and fewer and fewer people in each succeeding generation paying into it started to destabilize things.  So the Europeans did the only sensible thing.

They outsourced procreation.  They started bringing in immigrants who would take the lower wages they themselves wouldn’t take and of course no longer had to because of the social safety nets.  It made them feel good about themselves. Oh, and it would be so oppressive to expect them to assimilate, we’re all so “multicultural”.  We’re above that. We’re worldly.  Accepting of other cultures.  And we’re giving them a lift out of poverty. Why we practically have one foot in heaven already!

Just not in their back yards.

Which left large swaths of these populations especially in France and now increasingly in Germany and Sweden living quite separately from the societies that imported them, in francecheap, crowded, maybe government housing.

That didn’t turn out so well.

We’ve done the same kind of thing here as well.  The main difference is we import our cheap labor from  mainly Mexico and Central America, and Europe has imported its cheap labor mainly from the Muslim world.

We haven’t had the problems they are having … yet.  And that’s mainly because the cultural differences between us and our cheap labor sources aren’t that great.   There’s no jihadi component in Central America.

But you can’t say that for Europe and its labor sources.

We can, however, learn from what has happened in Europe. and think twice about who we bring into this country and on what conditions.

If you want to come here and be an American, come on in, fulfill the requirements, pass the test, take the pledge, and assimilate as best you can.  You wanted to be one of us, be one of us.

If you want to come here just to work, that’s cool.  We can make that clear in the arrangement and if you ever find it’s not working out for you you can always go back.  And if you decide “hey this American thing is cool, I want to be a citizen”, well you can apply just like everyone else who immigrates has to.  Like they have to in every other country.

We do have an interest in accepting compatible people and rejecting incompatible people. This has nothing to do with race or origin.  It has to do with culture and attitude.

So now there’s a power vacuum in Syria, and various factions are duking it out, including ISIS.  Which was created in the vacuum we left when we “ended” the war in Iraq.  The Russians like their man Assad and are bombing on his behalf.   We’ve been bombing against ISIS and other Islamist factions in Syria.  It’s a soup of factions of people who aren’t big fans of America, and our bombing probably isn’t helping that image with most of them.

So it’s REALLY unclear who the refugees actually are, how do you sift through them, and where do you put them?

Do you put them in cities all across western countries?

Ask France.  Ask Germany.  Ask Sweeden.  They tried it and it got ugly fast. It’s also true some of the problems that crop up often take a generation or two to develop, and when they do, you get … civil war here.

The answers are not as simple as many would like you to believe.

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A Brief Jaunt Through Recent History, Part I

It’s pretty apparent my millennial friends have had their history badly filtered, giving them an extremely skewed worldview, which is detrimental to them and their children.  Now I don’t claim this to be a complete history by any means, but I wish to fill in some blanks I suspect they’re not familiar with.

I’m going to start with this photo from Tehran University, teheranTehran, Iran, during the 1970’s.

But something changed in 1979, before most of you were born.

That something was not the invasion of the West, or of the U.S., but rather what is known today as Radical Islam.  The change was the expulsion of all western influence.  Admittedly, this was a reaction to western meddling over the previous century.  But the forced expulsion of all things western was not a step forward.

A similar change occurred in Afghanistan, fueled by reaction to the invasion of the Soviets.  The US helped the opposition (mujaheddin) in Afghanistan fight the Soviets, mainly with training and weapons support.  The mujaheddin wore the Soviets down over the next 10 years, and when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving a weak state run by whoever took over your town this week.  This power vacuum led to the rise of the Taliban, which many Afghans welcomed at first — they stopped the rampant crime. But the Taliban imposed Sharia Law in its place.  I’m sorry someone raped your daughter, we’ll have to stone her to death.

Keep in mind women in Afghanistan were going to college and dressing as they pleased before all of this came about, and this has everything to do with having been Western colonies controlled by western countries. But we need to move this along.

In late 1990, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein declared that Kuwait was a part of Iraq and invaded and took it over by military means.  The United Nations, which was created to stop such things, condemned the action.  But in reality, the United States is the enforcement wing for the United Nations. It just is.  We do the heavy lifting and then take the flack for it.

Saudi Arabia, fearing Iraq would set it sights on her next, agreed to let the UN (read mainly, the US) station troops in Saudi Arabia to help protect her in Operation Desert Shield.  In the mean time, the UN had demanded Iraq leave Kuwait.

President George HW Bush set about building a coalition of countries to support verbally and/or lend some military aid, and Operation Desert Storm – the expulsion from Kuwait, began.

Well we kicked Iraq out of Kuwait.  But we had promised the Arab states in the coalition that we would stop there.  It was hoped that the Iraqi people might seize the opportunity and topple Saddam themselves.  Many believed we would even help.  But we didn’t, at the behest of the other Arab states. And Saddam slaughtered millions of his own countrymen.

This, of course, was an outrage, and the world demanded action.  So we set up “No Fly Zones” in Iraq to try to keep Saddam from mass-murdering more of his own people.

Our planes and troops for this were still based in Saudi Arabia.

This did not sit well with radical Islamists throughout the middle east, as it meant infidels living on holy soil.  It was also a bit humiliating them to have infidels protecting the holy land.   It especially did not sit well with one particular Saudi, Osama bin Laden.

His organization tried to collapse the World Trade Center in 1993 with a bomb in the parking garage underneath it.  It killed 6 people and injured over 1,000, but the attempt failed to topple the tower.

The US did not treat this as an act of war, though.  It treated it as a law enforcement issue, and convicted 4 men in the bombing, and President Clinton fired a cruise missile at a milk factory to distract people from his having perjured himself.  Bin Laden vowed that he would destroy the buildings one day.  But it took him a while longer to get the next plan worked out and rolling.

About 8 years longer.

During this time Bin Laden had been able to set up shop in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, which again rose in the power vacuum left after the Soviets pulled out.

This time, the plan worked.  He convinced 15 men to hijack airplanes and crash them into not only the World Trade Center, but into the Pentagon and the White House as well.  Only the one headed for the White House failed, thanks to the stones of some great Americans on Flight 93.

The attack was roundly condemned, and the U.S. went into Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors.

In a nutshell, Bin Laden got pissed about Americans in Saudi Arabia who were there for 10 years at the U.N.’s behest mainly to keep Saddam Hussein from killing more of his own people. He was so pissed he tried twice to destroy the World Trade Center and succeed spectacularly the second time.

What are your options as President at this point?

Apologize to Bin Laden and pull out of Saudi Arabia, rewarding terrorist behavior?  And what happens to Iraqis Saddam doesn’t like after we leave?

Bush decided the best option was to finish the job started in 1990 which was cut short and set up this chain of events in the first place.

Now as part of the 1991 cease fire Iraq was supposed to get rid of all of it’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, referred to as “WMD”.  Now every Democrat and his brother over the previous decade had asserted that Hussein had them, Hussein had asserted that he had them, and he was supposed to destroy them and prove that he’d destroyed them by letting the U.N. inspect various sites.  Which he basically refused to do.  He also routinely shot at U.S. planes enforcing the no-fly zone that was there to keep him from slaughtering more Iraqis.  In fact, Hussein was in violation of 17 U.N. resolutions and all the U.N. would do about it was write sternly worded letters.  Meantime, US troops still on sacred soil.  To protect Iraqis.  Note that just about everybody we’re protecting at this time are Muslims.  Protecting Muslims from dictators, and Muslims from radical Muslims.

For all of these reasons (no, it wasn’t JUST about the WMD everyone said was there) Congress votes President GW Bush the authority to launch a war in Iraq.  But almost immediately, the Democrats paint GW as a “war monger” helping his “oil buddies”, and VP Cheney as a dark war profiteer for a company that he … uh … used to work for.   This was ALL politics.  John Kerry famously said, in a strange attempt to garner favor from hawks when he decided to run against Bush “I was FOR the war before I was against it.”

You can’t have it both ways.

The media immediately started painting the war in the worst possible light (which is easy to do because war isn’t pretty, which is why you fight them as swiftly as possible, and fight them to win), assigning the worst possible motives to everyone involved (except for Saddam.  See Michael Moore’s stupid movie with the unicorns and flowers in Iraq when we just started dropping bombs because we hate brown people).  It was chaos.  It was a quagmire.  There was no chance of winning.  A surge would fail.  (Only a surge didn’t fail.)  But all of this was to help soften the ground for their presidential run in 2008.  Bush is Hitler.  Cheney is Darth Vader.  They just hate brown people.  All of that rot.

Obama ran on “ending” the war.  So he “ended” it.  Funny thing about wars, though.  The party that decides when a war is over is the party that loses the war.  No matter how you slice it, it’s the side that cries “Uncle”.  So he “ended” the war by losing what was gained, pulled out and left a ….

Power vacuum.

Power vacuums in the middle east don’t turn out well.  They are quickly filled by ruthless scum who murder anyone who isn’t with them.  So they murder Muslims who aren’t “Muslim” enough, Christians, Hindus, atheists, Jews … whoever they like.

And in the middle east, Radical Islamists export this brutality.

Because they want to bring about the 12th Imam and his Caliphate.  Seriously it’s part of the religion (no, look it up yourself).  They need to establish chaos to bring it about, and to spread Islam by the sword or by cultural jihad (yes, this is an actual thing) everywhere they can.

Stay tuned for Part II

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Das Kapital, Imperialism, Genocide and Trading Stuff

I saw a post that linked to an article with commentary saying that the thrust of the article was right. I think one of the seeds of the article was sort-of right — that being I never learned about King Leopold’s genocide and I don’t remember dwelling on the trail of tears. But the article itself basically blames those things on capitalism, which it equates with imperialism and by proxy with racism … and of course that’s where it lost me.

Since the commentary asked that people look these things up — and look them up they should — I thought I should provide some counter-commentary to help balance some of the propaganda one would likely encounter looking these things up. It’s ubiquitous.

Now some of what I say here, especially regarding the origins of the term “Capitalism” I must give a hat-tip to Severian – otherwise I wouldn’t have known, but I have also verified it in articles such as this one.

I learned about the Trail of Tears in history class, though I never connected it with Jackson (mainly because as teenager I was, sadly, as most teenagers are — not that interested since it didn’t obviously directly affect me) until my guitar instructor brought it up over a $20 bill I was paying him with.  I’d never heard of Leopold, either. But I don’t think either of them have anything to do with “Capitalism”.

It seems as though mixing “capitalism” up in this — to me and others like me, it’s a nonsequitur — though when you understand the origins of the term itself, it’s not surprising that a piece like this would incorporate it as a “cause” of slavery and genocide and all sorts of things.

Before that word came about, it was just people trading stuff they had for stuff they wanted, where basically both parties gleaned some advantage over their previous situation, in other words, the both “profited” from the transaction. Under a monetary system where currency is used as a versatile storage device for such transactions, profit became synonymous with money, money with wealth and on up.

But the label was pretty much invented by Marx to smear free markets — in other words, people owning property and being free to trade it for property others had as described above … in other words, being human. It means you and I work out what stuff we each have is worth rather than having some arbitrary value set by some third-party bureaucratic price-panel. Or, as Severian put it, people flipping terms as switches in a giant Econ 101 equation and pretending that the equation dictates peoples’ behavior instead of the equation being a feeble attempt to describe real behavior.

The word first came into use not long after the publication of “Das Kapital”. But to me it just means what von Mises thought it meant, “if it means anything, it means the market economy”. To equate it with imperialism, slavery, and genocide is to misunderstand it, and it’s no accident that that equivocation has been made over and over again. That’s exactly why the word was invented.

Lots of atrocities against massive numbers of people have been carried out over the years, long before this “capitalism” word came up. Ethnocentrism has been around ever since different groups of humans noticed that other groups of humans looked or talked differently. Ethnocentrism has been used (and is still used by some societies today -though not generally in the West) to justify treating others as sub-human and therefore not subject to the rules which govern societies (internally) that champion market economies.

Internally, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t enslave … that’s been around for a very long time and those rules applied (and even then, as with all rules, the rules were broken by some). It was ethnocentrism that was the problem when it came to dealing with other peoples — whether it was market economies, Imperial states, or National Socialism (for those reading along but haven’t spent a lot of time thinking and reading about this stuff, that’s the Nazis, Fascists, and others like them). Over the years, it has been more and more recognized, not less and less recognized — that we’re all made of the same stuff by the same God (though more and more deity is being smeared out of it, probably to our own demise)… say, it kind of goes back to “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

A fact lost in the past several decades is that the concept came directly from Adam Smith et al when they talked about those rights being to “life, liberty, and property”. One of the sad legacies of the fact that our nation was born with the cancer of slavery already burned into the fabric (which was hardly unique at the time or in previous times) was that the wording was changed to “pursuit of happiness” mainly to leave the door open to abolition. Since slave owners pretty much considered their slaves “property”, they would easily be able to argue that their right to that “property” was protected. So it was a deft move and a good one for the time being … but today that wording gets abused for different purposes. Destructive ones. But — I digress, as I often do. What I mean to say is that things have gotten better, not worse in that regard.

When I and other defenders of capitalism say “capitalism”, we don’t mean “anything goes” or even “anything goes as long as I can pull the wool over your eyes.”

We mean what I said above. I get to own stuff, you get to own stuff, and that means we have control over what we own — including trading stuff we own with each other so that we now have different sets of stuff than what we started with, but we’re happier with our respective new sets of stuff. And when I say own stuff, I also mean we own ourselves, and that we can trade our labor as a form of “stuff” for other stuff.

That’s it.

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Religious Liberty

This is going to be long. But it has to be. It’s not something that fits on a bumper sticker, and it is very important to get this straight.

I realize I risk being called a racist and a homophobe … but … ho-hum. By now I’m about numb to baseless accusations hurled thoughtlessly to avoid serious discussion.  They don’t know me.  Nor do they care if they are wrong.

Morgan points out that we’re all tired of arguing about gay people and we should be talking about other things instead, and I understand what he’s saying. But the reason we’re arguing over them is some of them (not all) and their advocates are pushing into areas that severely threaten religious freedom. When American culture gains a foothold in foreign countries, the Left wails about “hegemony”. “America” pushing her beliefs and culture on people who don’t want it.  But they apparently have no compunction over doing it here.

Certainly there are other, larger problems our country currently faces – but this one actually has something to do with who we are.

Because it’s not really about gay people.  It’s about religious liberty.

I’ve been reading the flame wars between people on both sides of the issue, and I’ve noticed that in general, we’re arguing about the wrong things.

People concerned with religious freedom are arguing what the Bible says and what it means (which even Christians have many disagreements about) with atheists and agnostics who don’t care (except to use Old Testament passages to beat Christians over the head with). And the pro-prosecution side calls up images of Jim Crow laws and the Negro Motorist Green Book, and lecturing Christians on what they “really” believe. I even read one person arguing that religious liberty ends at the Church door!  (Isn’t that pretty much what the Soviet Union said?)

So What’s This All About?

At this point, it’s pretty clear that a top-down state re-definition of “marriage” is coming. I believe this is wrong — because marriage doesn’t come from the state. But that ship has sailed. So today the fight is over religious liberty — specifically, the right to practice one’s religion without interference from the state.

The First Amendment states, among other things:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

That’s pretty clear. It’s even more clear when you realize that the first Colonists came over to secure religious freedom. There were state religions in Europe – that is certain Christian Churches had unelected official positions in government, and if you happened not to belong to that denomination, you could be required to support it or subject to rules made because of denomination’s official position. There was actually state-sponsored persecution of people of certain denominations because of their beliefs and practices. They came here to get away from that.

Today, there are at least four or five cases in different states where vendors have declined to provide their services for events which contradicted their religious beliefs. They were subsequently sued and lost for not providing equal accommodation to same-sex couples that they provide for heterosexual couples. They cite civil rights laws that compel businesses not to discriminate based on race or gender. The argument is that sexual orientation is in the same category as race or gender.

Civil Rights

Inevitably, when we find ourselves in the odd position of having to argue for religious freedom in a nation that has its roots deep in it and is based on liberty — the plight of blacks in the South gets brought up as an illustration why we can’t allow businesses to discriminate because of religious belief. It is the first civil right protected under the Bill of Rights.

It is said that the religious liberty argument was used to justify many white businesses not serving black would-be patrons. That argument was dismissed in the 1960’s, and therefore it is argued that such protests should be likewise dismissed today against participating in a same-sex wedding.

What we’re overlooking, here, is that the argument was dismissed because the protest was found to be lacking. Jim Crow laws and sitting blacks in the back of the bus and segregating drinking fountains and lunch counters were clearly more about spite and hate than anything else. Few, if any real religious convictions lay behind it. It does not follow that the same is true for same-sex marriages.

There is this logic “short circuit” that afflicts too many people when it comes to reasoning, and it’s been introduced mainly by those who seek to manipulate us by stopping us from thinking very deeply, or sometimes at all, about certain things. An example is the States Rights argument.  Slave states used the States Rights argument to argue that they had a right to keep their own slavery laws – that the Constitution didn’t give the Federal Government the authority to abolish slavery within their borders. They lost that argument. And today, hucksters have implanted the idea is that States Rights is an argument for slavery, and any use of the argument is clearly racist and should be dismissed.

But Wisconsin used the States Rights argument to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act, as they refused to deport runaway slaves back to their owners in slave states.  They were in violation of Federal Law in doing so.  But nothing could be more anti-slavery and non-racist than this act which used the same argument.  Few would say that Wisconsin was wrong.  And yet if you say “states’ rights” you’ll hear “racist!” before the last “s” is out of your mouth.

Regardless of what you think of it, it is absolutely no secret that Christianity and Islam, among other religions, have long-standing widespread beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. When a Christian declines to involve herself in an event she considers immoral, it’s no stretch at all that she’s not making it up, no matter what other Christians may think of it.

Jim Crow and the Plight of Southern Blacks

There is no disputing that the horrors blacks went through, especially in the south – were terrible and inexcusable. Quite a bit of the problem was fallout from a known birth defect our nation inherited from the European colonialism that spawned her. Our founders were well aware of the contradictions between a nation founded on Man’s inalienable rights and the slavery that existed long before and certainly at the time of the founding. Our founders included abolitionists, some of whom were actually slave holders themselves, born into it — and southern states whose economies were heavily based on it needed to be brought into the union in order to be strong enough to win the War of Independence. Still, it is clear in our founding documents that the desire was there in the 1780’s to end the practice, and while some effort was put into weakening the slave states’ positions, some of the compromises made it messy and it took 72 years and a bloody civil war to finally end it.

The scars are still with us today, but they are most likely better than they would have been had anti-discrimination laws Republicans had long sought had not been enacted in the 1960’s.

But just as the imperfect compromise in the beginning, the solution was also imperfect. There probably was no perfect solution. It essentially created a protected class, and in addition, infringed on our basic right to free association, and created the concept of a “public accommodation” — which was relatively well-defined but has basically been interpreted in later years by many as any business that is open to the public.

Laws are often imperfect and more often than not have unintended consequences. Though many of its cultural intentions were fulfilled, unintentional cultural fallout has created a class dependent on government aid and the political carpetbaggers who have taken advantage of this have fostered a culture of entitlement, resentment, and separatism. Several modern black leaders cite this as having much more to do with what is holding most blacks back today than actual racial discrimination. The left often argues that the Constitution is outdated. But they’ll never consider that the Civil Rights Act might be outdated or at least in need of some refinement.

But I Thought We Were Talking About Religious Liberty

Indeed, we are. We are because the Civil Rights Act is being used to argue against religious liberty, and to prosecute those who try to exercise it. That should raise some big red flags. And it does, in people who are serious about religious liberty.

The Civil Rights Act was an extreme move that used restriction of liberty to address an extreme problem.

Here’s the kinds of things blacks faced:

Racist laws, discriminatory social codes and segregated commercial facilities made road journeys a minefield of constant uncertainty and risk. The difficulties of travel for black Americans were such that, as Lester B. Granger of the National Urban League puts it, “so far as travel is concerned, Negroes are America’s last pioneers.” Businesses across the United States refused to serve African-Americans. Black travelers often had to carry buckets or portable toilets in the trunks of their cars because they were usually barred from bathrooms and rest areas in service stations and roadside stops. Diners and restaurants also rejected blacks, and even travel essentials such as gasoline could be unavailable because of discrimination at gas stations. To avoid such problems on long trips, African-Americans often packed meals and even containers of gasoline in their cars.The civil rights leader John Lewis has recalled how his family prepared for a trip in 1951:

There would be no restaurant for us to stop at until we were well out of the South, so we took our restaurant right in the car with us… Stopping for gas and to use the bathroom took careful planning. Uncle Otis had made this trip before, and he knew which places along the way offered “colored” bathrooms and which were better just to pass on by. Our map was marked and our route was planned that way, by the distances between service stations where it would be safe for us to stop.”

Finding accommodation was one of the greatest challenges faced by black travelers. Not only did many hotels, motels and boarding houses refuse to serve black customers, but thousands of towns across America declared themselves “sundown towns” which all non-whites had to leave by sunset.

If you’re going to force people to violate their consciences, you’d better at least demonstrate a compelling need — like on the scale of the one above.  What extreme hardship is placed on gays by protecting the religious liberty of a Christian or Muslim when they’re asked to engage in something they find to be morally wrong? Where are there laws that literally prohibit straights from serving gays? Where are gays being run out of shops, told to stand at lunch counters, run to the backs of buses simply because they are gay? Gays have many, many options for accommodation. The situation isn’t even close to the same. And subsequently, extreme measures that trample people’s right to practice their religion in their everyday lives are not needed, and shouldn’t be used. If current law makes it necessary to trample religious liberty, then the law needs to be modified.

Slavishness to bad precedence is being used today to trump one of our most sacred founding principles.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

The “Public Accommodation” clause in the 1964 Civil Rights Act spelled out the following:

  • hotels
  • motels
  • restaurants
  • movie theaters
  • stadiums
  • concert halls.

Now it’s being argued that any business “serving the public” is a “public accommodation”, so the Christian photographer and the Muslim Barber as one of the people I recently argued with are just “out of luck”. Because as a condition of their business license, they can’t discriminate.  The argument is “you chose serve the public”. Check your religious liberty at your front door.  If you photograph nude women, you have to photograph nude men. If you photograph heterosexual unions, you have to photograph homosexual unions.  If you cut mens’ hair, you must cut womens’ hair.

But here’s the rub. People don’t go into business to serve the public.  They go into business to make a living, in pursuit of happiness – as the term is properly understood. If you are required by law to get a business license to open a business, and that license requires that you, at times, must violate your religious beliefs, then it is a law that “prohibits the free exercise thereof”.

That says Unconstitutional to me.  If who we are is rooted in liberty, something needs to change.

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But, Corporations!

TeddyRooseveltAgain, on one of those political e-posters on Facebook (right)

The idea behind this quote sounds great.  I get it.  But things like this are seldom as simple as they sound.

As an example, here at the University back in the late 1990’s, the registrar’s office decided that as a recruiting tool, it would offer an email address to every student. the idea, and it’s not a bad one. It sounds simple, but it’s not really that simple.

Simple, right?

What do you mean by “student”?

Turns out the answer to that question wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Everybody THOUGHT they knew what “student” meant and that it would be super easy to implement. But when people that other people thought were “students” weren’t getting their email addresses … we had to dig deeper. When do you start being a student? Are you a student during the summer between spring and fall semester if you are not taking summer classes? Are you a student during the intersessions? How do we know you’re really coming back in the fall? Things like that. Different people had different answers, and all of them thought THEY were right. (And then there’s the question … does the information we need once we made a decision exist in the data?)

Here, everybody assumes that a corporation is a big behemouth money-making capitalistic monster that exists solely to suck the life out of … well, you know how they are portrayed in the movies.

But there are all kinds of corporations, really. Corporations really amount to a tax status and limits liability with respect to losses for a particular organization. Lots and lots of corporations are not-for-profit and/or are set up specifically for promoting certain causes.

I suspect it’s that last category that is really against disallowing corporate contributions to campaigns (though the big commercial ones probably like to keep their options open as well). And most of them act as a collecting point for smaller contributions which they then use to contribute – helping the average citizen “put your money where your mouth is”, so to speak. Or they’ll actually go out and solicit money from a big commercial corporation. So which corporations will be allowed, and which wouldn’t?

People would just find ways around it anyway — like set up NPO’s for certain causes, fund the NPO’s (and perhaps write off the “contributions”) and then the NPO would contribute. For every well-meaning rule out there, there are loopholes, and if none exist, they will develop.

But … back to the real problem … the corrupting influence of large amounts of money, or streams of revenue to be siphoned from) … and how to minimize their impact on the electoral process (and wouldn’t it be nice if we could limit their impact on the lobbying/legislative process as well?)

What to do?

We COULD limit the contribution TO individuals. No commercial corporations, no NPO’s. Just one name, one contribution to one candidate per race, and no contributions to candidtates that do not represent your district. You must be a citizen to contribute. And we’ll limit it to $100*(GDP/”2013 GDP”) per one and only one real bona-fide human being, per campaign as a way to tie it loosely to the value of a buck in the future.

I could get behind something like that. But then, of course, how do you prove it or keep track of it? It’d be as verifiable as voter rolls or websites that accept credit cards from your maid in Dubai. And if you try to limit it to citizens you’ll likely be accused of being a racist anyway.

Citizens United did not overturn the Tillman Act (signed by TR 1907) which is what I suspect this e-poster is subtly criticizing. CU was not about contributing directly to campaigns, but was rather centered on what kinds of films or ads corporations could make and release near elections as limited by McCain Feingold. Basically, what happened is CU challenged “Fahrenheit 9/11” as a giant political ad to defeat Bush in the 2004 election cycle, and the court ruled that that film was not political speech because it was a “commercial” film (despite the fact that Moore specifically stated that’s why he made it). So Citizens United started cranking out politically motivated films and releasing them commercially, and they got challenged on a Hillary film they made for 2008.

The court decided to be consistent. Whether it was good or bad in the first place is up for debate.

Ultimately, the question of free speech is dicier in these instances than critics would like us to believe. If a company wants to make a movie, and that movie is in any way supportive or critcal of a movement or a party or a candidate … limiting the legality of doing that does, in fact, limit freedom of expression. A bit less so if they are only limited from airing them within 30 or 60 days of an election, though I can see people getting into what constitutes support or criticism. I think the courts have stuck to not mentioning a candidate by name in the past. You have to draw a line somewhere. But Farenheit 9/11 did mention a candidate by name and the court let it slide. The Hillary movie got locked up in court until after the election. You could argue that it’s corporate speech, but your average citizen doesn’t have the resources to make and release commercial movies, and it’s hard to argue that movies and ads aren’t expresssion.

In the end, the best protection from the corrupting influence of money is an educated public … and by educated I don’t mean just passing K-12 … I mean knowing the founding principles and the logic behind them and keeping abreast of what’s going on in the country and the world and applying them. I think that’s about the best we can do.

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Megyn-Claus-Gate

megyn2Quick, what color was Shaft?

You idiot, Shaft isn’t real!!!!!

I saw a meme post from “being a liberal” … picture of Megyn Kelly from a cheesecake photoshoot (because nothing pisses liberals off like a beautiful woman, especially if she doesn’t share their views) that was captioned:

Jesus was white
Santa is real
Fox is news

All of this went back to a segment during which Megyn Kelly said that Santa is white, and apparently that Jesus was white as well.

I don’t really watch cable news anymore.  I’ve caught bits and pieces of Megyn’s show over the years.  I’m aware she has a law degree from Albany, and she’s no bimbo. Not at all racist.  Just a conservative American journalist.  So, as I do when these firestorms get started, I have to go back and watch the segment that people are all upset about.

As usual, the truth doesn’t fit neatly on a bumper sticker.

For those who know so much about how stupid this segment proves Megyn, Fox, and its viewers are, I have a multiple choice question for you.

What was the segment about?

  1. a teacher who was disciplined for chastizing a black student who had come to school dressed as Santa — that Santa is white
  2. An ACLU suit filed against a school district for allowing a white Santa to visit a mostly black school
  3. An opinion column that argued that Santa should, in fact, be a penguin.

I’ll wait……

 

If you picked (3), you win.

Did you watch the segment? In it, Megyn sympathizes with the columnist for her pain and compliments her writing, but also points out that the legendary character that is Santa Claus, in fact, caucasian — as was Jesus.

penguinclausThe segment is pretty light hearted, but her main point is that just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it has to change for everyone. But that’s where we are in this increasingly politically correct superculture. The one where the media, Hollywood, politicians, and the educrats live, that is.

The lefty critical theorists with their Pocket Alinskies immediately pounced.  This is what they live for.  Alinsky #5 is “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”  They really take this one to heart.  And while it is true it’s a pretty potent weapon, Alinsky was pretty flexible on the quantity of truth behind the ridicule, and so are they.

The main criticisms seem to be

  • You idiot, Santa isn’t real
  • You idiot, Saint Nicholas was Greek, not white
  • You idiot, Jesus was an Arab, not white
  • You idiot, you’re too pretty to be taken seriously, and you’re obviously racist

Well, Shaft isn’t real, either, but imagine the uproar if a re-make was made where Shaft was now white.  But that’s not all.  Santa is, in fact, much more real than a movie character.

Now before I go on, let me make clear that I don’t have a problem with black Santas or black or hispanic or even asian Santas or depictions of Jesus.  Not at all.   Y’all do what you want, I’m good with it.  But please stop trying so hard to wring all the European, Judeo/Christian elements of culture out of American culture.  Just because you’re uncomfortable with it doesn’t mean others should change it for you.  And you certainly shouldn’t be allowed to change it for them.

And don’t get up all in people’s faces for merely stating facts just because you don’t like their point of view.

Santa is a cultural character with a long history in European culture, tracable back to Saint Nicholas, who was Greek, maybe of Turkish descent.

cacaususTake a look at the map to the right.  The red ellipse marks the Caucasus Mountains.

What significance does this mountain range have?   Well besides being very pretty, they are the mountain range after which the caucasian “race” was named.   Now, why the scare quotes around “race”, you ask?

Up until fairly recently, if you were filling out a questionaire or form that asked about race in the US, your choices were typically Caucasian/White, Black, and maybe American Indian.

If you were asian, you picked white.  If you were hispanic, you picked white.  If you were Turkish, Jewish, Italian, Arab … you picked white.

And the kicker is … Jesus was a Semite.  An Arab.  So was St. Nicholas if he wasn’t actually Greek.   And Arabs are arguably the original Caucasians, certainly closer to them than northern Europeans.  So the whole “Jesus was white” and “St. Nicholas was white” question is answered.  Yup.  Does it matter?  Only as a matter of fact.

But Santa Claus isn’t real!!!!   Nobody said the man in the red suit was an actual, real being.  But he is a real legend and a real cultural figure (pre-dating the United States, no less – he’s an international figure) whose character was developed in Holland, Germany, Sweeden, England, etc.  He was always depicted as white, which should surprise no one.  A legend developed by people who were white based on a man who was caucasian – I’m gonna guess … probably going to end up being white.

Big deal.  Why should this bother anybody?   Who says a white Santa can’t “serve” a black child? It shouldn’t matter.  But it does — it bothers liberals very much.  And the reason is is that far from race being unimportant to liberals, race is sacred to liberals.   They need racial differences.  They can’t just be matter of fact.  They need the drama.  They need victims to save from the villian, and the villian is the white man.  They’ve saved one race, to be evil, sort of like Satan from all the angels.

And I don’t make the religious analogy lightly.  It’s a theology to them.  And to be redeemed, the white liberal must constantly beat his chest and point out the evil that is his race.

Gets a little confusing, of course, when non-whites victimize other non-whites, because it doesn’t fit the theology.  They either gloss over it and call you a racist if you even try to bring it up, or they make up even newer racial categories like “white hispanic”  (I guess only they get to decide which hispanics are white hispanics and which are non-white hispanics) so they can adjust the facts to fit the theology.

So Santa Claus is white because that’s who he is according to legend.  You can’t just unilatally change a legend for everyone.  That’s not how legends work.  Regardless of his race, it’s pretty clear he isn’t a penguin. You can replace him with a penguin in your tradtion if you want to, but that’s not Santa Claus, it’s a penguin and you can make up your own legend about it.

As a progressive recently chastized me in a discussion about Global Warming-Climate-Change-Chaos

You idiot, penguins don’t live at the North Pole!

 

(and the fact that I’d never suggested they do was apparently unimportant to him)

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Cylar’s Memorial Day Message

It’s Memorial Day, and we’re hearing the familiar reminders to “remember the fallen” and “honor the troops” today and all of that. It is often accompanied by pictures of Arlington National Cemetery, plain white headstones with flags next to them, and the like. Some mentions also make it a point to suggest you should financially support organizations designed to maintain memorials, or to help living veterans and their families.

Before anyone objects, let me say that this is not a bad thing. We need to remember fallen warriors, including those who didn’t count on dying that day. (The Navy guys who were asleep in their bunks aboard the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack, for example.) A lot of servicemen (and yes, women) died horrible and painful deaths in defense of our freedom. Some were wounded in combat and later died of their injuries. It was not always quick and easy for them. I will not elaborate on the many creative ways that enemies of our country have found to kill members of our military over the years.

While many of these service members were probably thinking about survival, their comrades-in-arms, or some combat objective at the time of death (as opposed to high American ideals of freedom, democracy, liberty, self-determination, etc) it can nonetheless be stated that all of them were lost in service to our country in one capacity or another…even those whose missions we never even heard about. I’m going to take it one step further and state that I think we should honor the memory of those who may have been engaged in morally questionable military activity at the time of death.

For example, everyone agrees that D-Day was the right thing to do; the My Lai massacre…not so much. But even those who were participating in such an atrocity still deserve to have their memory honored. As American citizens, we’re still obligated to honor even those who fought in campaigns and conflicts we don’t necessarily support.

I’ll try to get to my point. My only objection to the Memorial Day observances (the parades, the familiar Facebook posts, the blurbs to “remember the fallen” heard throughout the day on various media outlets) is that I think most of them don’t go far enough. I think, along with the reminders to remember the fallen, we need an additional message for the living:

Do not let their sacrifice be in vain.

What do I mean? Okay, did anyone see ‘Saving Private Ryan’? Reference the part near the end of the film, where Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) has been mortally wounded on the bridge, he’s speaking to Private Ryan (Matt Damon), and he says, “Earn this!” It was his last sentence, before succumbing to the injuries he’d just sustained in combat. Private Ryan, of course, survives the war and goes on to lead a long life. At the end of the film, he’s shown visiting Captain Miller’s grave…and he asks his wife to tell him he’s been a good husband, a good father over the years.

I don’t know if that scene actually happened or if it was the creation of some Hollywood screenwriter, but I think there is some wisdom in Captain Miller’s message. “Earn this!” His statement to Private Ryan was simple – don’t let my sacrifice, my death on this bridge, my dying at the hands of the German army we’re fighting – don’t let that be in vain. He was telling the private to lead a worthwhile life after the war, one which would be worthy of the sacrifice of brave men who fought and died. At least that’s what *I* got out of that scene.

What does that mean to us today – not letting the sacrifice of fallen warriors be in vain? I think it means not only to exercise the freedoms they bought and secured for us, but also to be vigilant against anyone who’d try to take them. “Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel,” warned Patrick Henry. Yeah, the “give me liberty or give me death” guy.

Our Founding Fathers made it abundantly clear that those who hold political power are mere men – corruptible, not to be trusted, ever seeking to impose tyranny on the rest of us. They made it clear, through their writings in various publications of the time (The Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution itself, personal letters, and others) that if our country is to remain free – or to have honest government – then the people themselves must be the ones to guarantee that. It means that one of the responsibilities of being an American citizen, is to hold one’s leaders accountable. It means demanding honest and transparent government that respects our rights.

Ben Franklin, for instance, on exiting the Constitutional Convention, was asked what sort of government he and his colleagues had designed, and he is reported to have said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He meant that it was up to future generations to maintain what had been fought for during the Revolutionary War. It is also said that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” which has been variously attributed. Regardless of who said that, I think there’s a real nugget of truth there.

We simply don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye to what’s happening to our country, trusting that our leaders know best, or telling ourselves that it’s all going to work out. History has counseled us that those who seek to aggrandize more power unto themselves always have nefarious reasons for doing so. Look no further than Hitler’s Germany for a rather strong example of what happens when people assume that their leaders have the peoples’ best interests at heart. The Russian Revolution of 1917 (which installed Lenin and his communist Bolsheviks in power) is another. Tyranny and destruction always follow such men.

This makes the president’s recent speech at Ohio State all the more disgusting:

Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

 

A lot of people these days talk about rights of citizenship, but no discussion of rights is complete without a corresponding discussion of responsibilities.They go together. It’s two sides of the same coin.

The president’s foolish speech at Ohio State is exactly the sort of thing our Founders were warning us about. Imploring us to reject “voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems” is an example of what to watch out for. On the contrary, this just the sort of rhetoric that engaged citizens need to reject. It should be dismissed by those American citizens who are cognizant of their responsibilities to fallen warriors, as well as to themselves and their posterity.

(Understand that I’m not quoting this in order to pick on Obama or other liberals – not today anyway. He simply happens to be the guy in power at the moment.)

I wrote on Facebook today that one way of not letting our military’s sacrifices be in vain, is to pay attention to what your government is doing and to hold your government leaders accountable. This means they should be hearing from us on a regular basis. It means we should be paying close attention and not relying on the media or political pundits to interpret events for us. It means we have a responsibility as American citizens to let our elected and appointed leaders know that they answer to us – that we made them, and we can break them…figuratively and politically speaking. It means that we can and will use our First Amendment rights on the Internet, at gathering places, in forums, at the ballot box, and in court to assert our will.

This is particularly important here in America, because of why our military members went to their deaths on land, sea, and air over the last couple of centuries. There’s a very important distinction to be made between our fallen service members, and those who fought for our enemies, for many other nations/states/empires of history, or for those who fight in the militaries of many foreign countries today.

What distinction is that? Freedom. Our military’s fallen were lost in defense of freedom. I don’t mean to suggest that your average GI at Bunker Hill, Shiloh, Somme, Guadalcanal, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Desert Storm, or Fallujah spent a lot of time thinking about our country’s ideals so much as simply staying alive, watching each other’s backs and getting the job done. I also don’t mean to suggest that whoever the enemy du jour happened to be necessarily thought of themselves as the bad guys (though most certainly were). I do, however, mean to suggest that pretty much all of them were ostensibly deployed in some capacity meant to assure that our nation and its ideals would continue to exist.

If any of those fallen warriors came back to life today, I’d like to be able to look them in the eye and tell them that we hadn’t squandered what they’d bequeathed us. They didn’t bleed just so we can sit on the couch today and watch our leaders give away the store.

Though very little military conflict actually took place on American soil during the 20th and 21st centuries, every time our military was sent overseas it was ostensibly done so in order to protect our interests, and to make sure that no rival power would be able to get into a position to threaten those ideals. Nobody in America wanted to see the British redcoats, the Nazis, the imperial Japanese, the Soviet communists / their allies, Al Queda, or anyone else in a position to assert a real threat to the continued survival of this country, its citizens, or to our way of life.

I happen to think this is important because the American experiment is a unique one in human history. Never before was a country founded from the very beginning on the concept of self-government. Though other countries have been run democratically to one extent or another, never before was a nation set upon a foundation that the people, and not their rulers, are sovereign. Every other republic throughout history to that point had placed limits upon the sovereignty of the people.

Today, there are dozens of countries in which attempting to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” (that’s from the First Amendment in our Constitution) is all it takes to get oneself and one’s entire family thrown into prison or worse. How well do you think letter-writing campaigns by citizens are tolerated today in North Korea, Iran, Cuba, or a long list of other places? How well do you think it was tolerated by Soviet Russia or by the Roman Empire for that matter? Do you think politicians in those places listened to the people and realized they’d better clean up their act…or were goon squads sent out to deal with “troublemakers” and other sources of dissent?

And I don’t think we here in America are immune to our country going down the same path. We are in trouble if we’re more concerned about “American Idol,” keeping up with the Kardashians, and this year’s Super Bowl…than we are with holding our leaders accountable and making sure that they know we aren’t going to tolerate any funny business. It means letting them know – frequently – that we’re happy to vote them out of office and/or use the power of the judiciary to hold them in check. This is absolutely critical to maintaining the rule of law, as opposed to the arbitrary rule of men.

This is not a partisan plea. This transcends Republican or Democratic politics. This has nothing to do with party. While there happens to be a Democrat-controlled administration in the White House at the moment, it’s just as important to be vigilant when the other side is in power…regardless of how you voted in the last election. In fact, it may be even more important when “your guys” are in, since they may be more apt to listen to you if they think they run the risk of losing your support for acting unwisely, illegally, unethically, or irresponsibly. Don’t tell yourself even for a minute that Congress, the President, the governor, the state Legislature, the mayor, the City Council, or the County Board of Supervisors don’t care what you think. If there’s one thing that politicians of every stripe and every level understand, it’s votes.

I assure you that if enough people get exercised about something, action will be taken, by the highest levels of American government. If the Benghazi, IRS, or Fast N Furious scandals were being taken seriously by voters of all stripes (instead of dismissed as a partisan witch hunt), we’d be getting some real answers about what went on in these cases, instead of stonewalling and “I can’t remember, I don’t recall” from the people who may have been involved.

If the Democrats in Congress – and their constituents back home – were demanding a real response from the Obama Administration, we’d get one. But that’s just it – the people who elected these politicians need to be leading the way. Ultimate blame for corruption, incompetence, or malfeasance in government rests with the people, who are sovereign. It’s been said that the American people may not necessarily get the government they deserve, but they will definitely get the worst one they’ll tolerate.

If one good thing came out of the Watergate scandal nearly forty years ago, it should be this: The American people will forgive incompetence and even dishonesty…but they have no patience for a cover-up.

I don’t mean to get off on a lot of finger-pointing; those were merely handy examples because they are current events as of this writing. Everything I’ve said here is also true of developments at the state or local level. I personally vote in every election, of course, and also contact my state Legislative officials from time to time to let them know what I think of their positions on my pet issues. I probably should be doing even more, but as everyone knows, there are only so many hours in the day, with a full time job and a family to attend to. Nonetheless, I consider it my responsibility as an American citizen to let my leaders know that I’m watching them, that I have a voice, and that I’m not afraid to use it. So should you.

I also am happy to let them assume that I speak for thousands of other citizens who couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone or write a letter that day, but who nonetheless do vote…and who are paying attention to what’s being done with their tax dollars and with the power we’ve entrusted to them as public servants.

These people who serve in government (remember that word) work for us. Not the other way around. We pay their salary and they answer to us, even if they are from some Congressional or Legislative district other than the one we live in. We the people are their boss, and as US citizens, we have a very serious obligation to our fallen warriors to insist on honest and efficient government.

Earn this. Honor the fallen, this Memorial Day and every day. Do not let their sacrifices be in vain.

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War Based On Lies

Surprise.

Another article (in our local paper) by a chest-bleating liberal zealot who misses having G.W. Bush to kick around (directly) for the world’s woes … lamenting our collective lack of sack cloth and ash as the 10th anniversary of a “war based on lies” and “a policy of torture” passed.

Except for him of course, because it’s all about a public display of proper self-loathing for a hit of GoodPerson™ Highness.

So here’s another liberal chestnut (or maybe a small basket of them) that I wish to address.

Yes, the 2003 Iraq war was based on lies. To be specific, Saddam Hussein’s lies.

See, the 1991 war, the one everyone agrees the U.N. got behind, with the big coalition that included “old” Europe never really ended. There was a cease fire agreement. And in that cease-fire agreement, Saddam Hussein said that he would comply with getting rid of his chemical weapons and any nuclear weapons programs, and would allow the UN to verify the dismantling and disposing of said systems.

But he didn’t do that. He stymied the inspections every chance he got, and eventually kicked the UN inspectors out. And, though he denied having these weapons anymore when speaking directly to western governments, he told a different story to his people and to those in the Middle East he wanted to impress.

So he lied about complying with the cease fire agreement, and he was lying to SOMEBODY about whether or not he had WMD.

Given the fact that 1) he did have them at one time, 2) the entire world intelligence community, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Madeline Albright, and virulent anti-Bush Democrats including Sam Berger, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschel, Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, & Henry Waxman believed he had them, and Saddam wanted his people and his local enemies to believe he had them, and he was interfering with UN Inspectors efforts to verify that he was complying with his agreement to get rid of the ones he had … we didn’t so much start a new “illegal” war with Iraq, but rather set about to finish the one he started back in 1991 and lied to get us to stop.

In the mean time he was a known sponsor of international terrorism including Hamas. Despite protests to the contrary, he likely even helped Al-Queda where their interests and his aligned. Not that any of this is necessary to pin what I’ve already discussed above on him, but it certainly doesn’t help.

Had he not lied, but rather complied — there would have been no 2003 restart of the 1991 war.

Hussein lied.  People Died.

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Unmoored Part IV

[continuation of the Unmoored series]

I made an allusion to “baiting hooks” to get people who couldn’t afford them to take out loans.  Some of it was with teaser rates.  Some of it was with balloon interest payments. No down payment.  Somewhere along the line they came up with the idea of an “interest only” loan, where you make interest payments only, never paying down any of the principal. I’d heard of these well before the crash and wondered who in God’s name would sign up for such a “deal”?  But we’re not done yet.  There were also negative amortizing loans.  Yeah. Look that one up.  Most of these look like they were designed to fail.  And maybe they were.  (Still doesn’t excuse the idiocy of taking someone up on a deal you can’t afford).

I suppose there’s one born every minute. And on Wall Street, I think many actually take pride in screwing each other over. I imagine that’s what Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker” is about.  Don’t have that one yet.  But when he brought it up in one of these other books (written from his own experiences inside of one of these firms) he meant it as a warning.

He was shocked and dismayed to find that people were using it as an instructional resource.

In “The Big Short”, he runs down character profiles for two people involved. The first guy started out as a real self-interested go-getter who came to despise the system but kept working under it just to screw over people he thought were screwing other people over.  The second was a bright introverted medical student who was bored with medicine and had a knack for researching and subsequently picking stocks in a manner that made a lot more money than anyone else was able to.  These two people end up being ground zero of an epidemic that exploded sometime in 2006.

Both were certain, after looking at the numbers of BBB loans packaged in AAA-rated packages along with a stagnant housing market and the nature of especially the ballooning and teaser rate loans, that enough of these loans would soon go bad to sour the packages. I’m not sure who came up with the mechanism … I think it was that medical student … but someone came up with the idea of Credit Default Swaps.

This one finally gave me no choice but to ask… what. the. hell?????

Suppose I was worried about my house being destroyed by fire or flood or a tornado.  Most people are concerned about these things enough to buy insurance (their lender makes them buy house insurance while they have a loan, as the lender has a vested interest in keeping your house viable for collateral).

Now insurance is about risk-spreading, and it makes sense to do it.  If, say, 1 in 500 houses will experience a disaster like this, it’s nice to be able to pay a relatively small amount a month into a pool so that if any one of your houses gets hit, the huge sums of money it takes to fix a house will be there to fix yours.  Risk spreading adds efficiency to ensuring that your investment in your home is protected.  Insurance company makes money on the surplus.  Win-win.

Credit Default Insurance, one would think upon first hearing the term, would be similar to the mandatory insurance your lender makes you have on your home to protect their interest in it. I’m not sure if anything like it existed in the market before this, but the next twist is truly bizarre.

The new mechanism allowed people to buy insurance on stocks in which they had no vested interest in the first place.

It would be as if I took out fire insurance on YOUR house.  And I don’t mean buying the insurance on your behalf.  I’m the beneficiary if your house burns down.  Talk about a conflict of interest.

This completely decouples the risk from the reward as far as the original loan transaction is concerned, and even as far as the sale of packaged mortgages were concerned.   I didn’t make the loan, I didn’t buy the package, but I get money if the package goes belly up (if I rember right, they even came up with a way to get the money as the individual loans went belly up rather than wait for the whole package to go bad).

It isn’t risk free, but the potential payoff to investment ratio made it quite akin to gambling.  It *was* gambling.  And with a housing bubble that had clearly peaked, the odds were pretty much in your favor.  But man, how does this even enter someone’s head as an idea?

So who did they talk into insuring other people’s bonds on their own behalf?

Well, it was mainly AIG.  At first.  I guess the folks at AIG were talked into creating a product that they could sell to insure person A against person B’s risk, and they were further convinced that person B’s risk was low because the bonds were rated AAA.  And nobody at AIG stopped to think, “Hey … what’s THEIR angle?!  What are we missing?  And why are we selling so many of these things?”

If they did, all they ended up with was “selling GOOD!!!!”

So now we had people making money selling bad loans in with good loans, and packaging ever increasingly large numbers of bad loans in with those loans — and selling those packages and making a fortune.  And we had people buying lottery tickets with good odds betting that the loans in the packages would go bad, and they’d get big payoffs.  And we had people thinking they were making (well they were in the short run) lots of money selling “insurance” to that second group of people for loans they didn’t even own.

The insurance is an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction. There is no value being produced at this level. The people involved in the original loan transactions are lucky to be colored dots on a screen. It was all a game of hide the turd between financiers now.

To make matters worse, when the few people who did understand that the more bad loans, the higher the payoff from the insurance …

.. they actively scared up more bad loans to buy “insurance” on.

Now we’ve gone from sinkhole to blackhole.

If all of this had had remained private obligations between private parties with no government bailouts, it would have been bad for those people and those companies.

But millions of regular people had those companies and those bonds in their investment portfolios.

The Libertarian in me says, “well they should have looked into their investment companies’ strategies”.   Never a bad idea.  But my heart wouldn’t really be behind that statement.  The reason I go with a broker in the first place is — it’s all too complicated for me.  I don’t have the time or the inclination for it.  It shouldn’t be. But it is.  That leads to problems like this.

I myself am pretty unmoored from the underpinnings of my own investments.  I can look, and sometimes do, at the ones my broker is in charge of.  But I never look at what the company pension looks like.  I don’t have any control over that.

Still, I disagree with the government bailouts.  As Rick Santelli put it, it’s rewarding bad behavior.  Sometimes the best way to learn the permanent lesson … don’t touch a hot stove … is to get burned by one once.

[one more part coming, I think]

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