[My apologies for letting the 24jul14 sandbox overfill. Out of desperation, I suppose, people were beginning to discuss local drone flights under the SoJ post, and other transgressions ;-) Here's a fresh one.]
Moonbeam’s bankrupt California continues to buy Latino votes with money we don't have. Our “balanced budgets” are achieved by not paying the state’s pension obligations. And today facing over a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities, the governor announces that the state will “shelter immigrants”, those munchkins dumped by the hordes across our y’all come border with Mexico (more here). Never mind that California already is the nation’s leader in all the metrics tracking the poor, disabled, unemployed, ignorant, and stupid.
Local blogger and RR reader Todd Juvinall has more to say about the latest wave of juvenile illegal aliens. He writes an excellent piece that appeared in the 30jul14 Union. Give it a read (don’t know whether The Union has accepted the advice to un-paywall its op-ed page).
Doesn’t it just frost your external plumbing when you come to realize that the Fed has been promoting the fortunes of the dastardly one-percenters, and creating more inequality by keeping interest rates insanely low in order to counteract Obama’s destructive policies impeding economic recovery? It is, of course, sold as part and parcel of the administration’s ongoing Big Lie claiming that it is all done to help Main Street counter Wall Street. Ruchir Sharma at Morgan Stanley lifts the curtain for us with his ‘Liberals Love the One-Percent’ in the 30jul14 WSJ. The dots to be connected are that the policy maintains the fat cats’ buying of political influence while camouflaging the administration’s fundamental transformation of America.
Did you see what the political scumbags in the Texas legislature are doing to the First Amendmentto keep from having their corruptions being exposed by non-profit issue advocacy groups? They are working through their Ethics Committee to reinterpret existing state election code to now require these groups to “register with the state, hire campaign accountants and attorneys, and file and disclose detailed reports on contributions, spending and their beneficiaries. Violations are a criminal offense.” (more here) Can you spell 'knee-buckling expenses'?
Returning to the Convention of States – the constitutional amendment procedure described in our Constitution’s Article 5 – about which I remain perplexed with a number of questions about its current direction and resulting efficacy having gone unanswered by the conservative proponents of launching such a convention. I gave some background on the CoS in my 7apr14 post.
Various groups on the Right and Left are almost rabidly in favor of holding CoS as an answer to making changes in America’s governance that are not possible under the current Constitution as amended. Each party's objectives are anathema to the other. While the Right seeks to establish a requirement for fiscal prudence and limited government, which I support, the Left seeks to abridge/eliminate more freedoms and enlarge the scope and reach of Leviathan.
The bottom line is that, under current constitutional procedures, holding a controllable (by either party) CoS, or another Constitutional Convention, is nigh on impossible (more here). However, this problem has been extensively studied and there are reasonable ways forward. A particularly good piece of work was done by the Cato Institute and reported in its Policy Analysis #691 (18jan12) titled ‘Renewing Federalism by Reforming Article V – Defects in the Constitutional Amendment Process and a Reform Proposal’. I’d sure like to see someone on the Right in the leadership of their CoS initiative, someone like, say, Mark Meckler respond to Cato’s analysis of the problem and its proposed way forward. Simply dismissing criticisms of the current efforts toward a CoS with denigrations and/or crickets is not productive.
[1aug14 update]RR readers will recognize that today’s announcement of 200K+ jobs in July is just treading water and not a cause for celebration, even though we have a modest surge of hopeful people entering the job market and thereby giving truth to the ongoing doldrums by driving the unemployment rate up to 6.2%. The natural net accretion of working age people in America (out of the education pipeline and immigrants) is somewhere in the 200-250K per month range. Creating that many jobs is required to just absorb the newbies; recovery, let alone growth, requires a significantly higher job creation rate. The details of all this were explained here and here.
[3aug14 update] Leviathan implementing Agenda21 right down to the donuts and cupcakes that can be made and sold by volunteers at school bake sales. The scheme is simple - take their money at gunpoint, give part of it back to (partially) fund schools, roads, hospitals, bridges, waterways, utilities, ..., then attach whatever liberties limiting regulations you want to the refunds under threat of witholding the refunds for non-compliance (more here). It sure seems that progressives see no infringement of *their* liberties as long as government does not interfere with how, where, when, and with whom (or what) they can induce orgasm. Everything else can have the bejeezus regulated out of it with no nevermind from the Left with the proviso that someone else can be made to pay for all ensuing costs related to their practice of such freedoms. Rampant fascism.
RR has posted on the national movements to break bigger states into smaller ones as part of the impetus to achieve some form of America’s Great Divide (here). These movements are birthed by the realization by large cohorts of conservatives in the several states that they are no longer represented in their states’ legislatures, and the movements are fueled by the growing irreconcilable polarization of America’s Right and Left socio-political ideologies. For some time now the distance has grown so large that no one can any longer suggest a plausible middle ground acceptable to sufficient numbers in both camps.
Two distinct yet related movements are stirring in California in which many of its mostly rural counties, located in the north and in the Sierra, have formed citizens groups to explore the feasibility and form of such a break-up. The bigger and older movement – Six Californias - was founded by venture capitalist Tim Draper in 2013, and has gathered enough signatures for an initiative to be placed on the 2016 ballot. The passed initiative will launch a process that then must successfully proceed through California’s legislature and then through Congress.
The other is the State of Jefferson (SoJ) movement that intends for a group of northern California counties to secede from the state and become a new state. A number of northern counties have passed resolutions of support for SoJ, and more are in the offing. SoJ is spearheaded by Mark Baird and others of the Jefferson Declaration. Mark Baird will be one of the featured speakers at this Saturday’s SoJ townhall gathering in Nevada County's Western Gateway Park.
I invite everyone who is interested in knowing more about the motivation for and means of achieving a viable State of Jefferson to bring their lawn chairs to the park this Saturday afternoon. You don’t have to have made up your mind about SoJ or any of the national partition movements, just come and find out what all the fuss is about so you can speak a bit more knowledgeably when you talk to your friends and neighbors.
[update] In today’s (30jul14) Union we have ‘State splitters secede from reality’ by local resident Jerry Henderson. From his article it is a safe bet that the man is of liberal leanings by just looking at how he reasons. His message is summarized - People who have no voice in their state legislatures should not seek to constitutionally separate from their current states because that is a complicated process unlikely to succeed, because the majority party will oppose such moves in order to maintain its ideological monopoly. Instead, such discontents should just “play by the rules” and “do something positive that will make (their) community and region a better place to live.”
So there you have it. IMHO, if for nothing else, a split is warranted to just be out from under the electoral thumb of thinkers like Mr Henderson; my scrap lumber pile reasons better. But the question that all such pooh-poohers should answer is, ‘How real is it to expect an aggrieved minority to remain compliant indefinitely, people who have been repressed for years by a government blind and deaf, nay, inimical to their just needs (liberty, security, property)?’
The reply of the majority Hendersons to the minority conservatives is to hunker down, accept the current order of things, and do your best. It was the same perpetual advice that King George III gave the colonists.
[3aug14 update] It was a fine gathering yesterday at the Western Gateway Park with good speakers making a cogent case for SoJ and the state splitting movement that is gaining momentum across the land. The main grievance fueling discontent is that with growing national polarization that has now put permanent super-majorities into many state houses, the minorities have lost any effective representation in their states' legislatures. For a complete report of the Nevada County SoJ townhall meeting, visit Russ Steele's Sierra Foothills Commentaryhere.
[4aug14 update] George Boardman, columnist for The Union and RR reader, wrote a thoughtful piece in today’s edition of the paper – ‘‘Power to the People’ isn’t what it should be in California’. There he advises conservatives to not “waste their energy on dead-propositions like the State of Jefferson, constitutional sheriffs, overturning Common Core, and taking control of federal forests …”. Instead he proposes that it is the establishment of another state elected office (and supporting bureaucracy) that will “defend the will of the people all the way to the US Supreme Court if necessary” that will get conservatives’ juices flowing productively and beneficially.
IMHO that approach asks us to piss into much stronger winds than the ones now buffeting the specific and focused objectives he dismisses. Such an initiative defending ombudsman (IDO?) will itself require an initiative to launch which has no more chance of being implemented than the other initiatives that have been overturned by activist progressive judges. The IDO will immediately be seen as a conservative cause to be squashed by the states’ liberal super-majorities that today exist at all jurisdictional and bureaucratic levels. The other problem is that an IDO office without an immediate cause celebre will be an abstraction that is harder to sell to the electorate than regaining representation of ideological minorities or opposing specific government overreach. In short, given that the state's Attorney General will remain dysfunctional (biased), I like the notion of an aggressive IDO, but in addition to the established conservative objectives, not as their replacement.
That is the title of a major piece in the 23jul14 NYT by “education journalist” Elizabeth Green of chalkbeat.org that one of my east coast correspondents pointed out. In it she highlights the record of American students and adults on international placement tests and our own regular surveys of adult literacy and numeracy. Longtime RR readers are familiar with my interest in and alarm at how our schools are failing to educate our youth, especially in the critical STEM subjects required for getting jobs and reasoning about the direction of our democratic republic. The justification for such alarm is evident in our anemic economic recovery and in the quality of people we send to our state houses and Washington.
Ms Green and her colleagues at chalkbeat appear to have solid liberal credentials. This goes a long way to explain her omitting the role of teachers' unions in contributing to the stink in America’s math education. Although she does acknowledge the cognitive deficits in our teacher corps, she does it so very gently, and places most of the blame for our poor teaching methods and results on school administrations not preparing its teachers to teach to the various math standards (the latest being Common Core) that have sailed through government schools in America during the last 40+ years.
In one way I am heartened that such an article with its provocative title appeared in the Gray Lady, even though all of the (at least to me) obvious dots were neither presented nor connected. For example, there was no mention of the impact of cultural differences between America and Japan, whose math education she compares and contrasts with ours. Only in America is it socially acceptable to shamelessly admit in public that ‘I don’t do math’ or ‘I’m really not a numbers person’. (Functionally that is equivalent to saying that ‘I can’t evaluate alternative public policies’ and ‘I can’t really reason about anything’.) But then what would we expect in a nation whose adult population is 40% functionally illiterate, and has become 95% innumerate according to our National Center for Educational Statistics.
Most people who keep up know that among developed nations America ranks in the world’s educational dregs, while our competitors in Asia and northern Europe scramble for the top rankings. Do I think that there is any light at the end of this tunnel of national dumbth? Not a smidgeon (love that word) that I can see. We are beyond the tipping point and guaranteed to keep sliding as long as teachers’ unions gatekeep the teaching profession and progressives dominate academia. All that organizations such as chalkbeat can do is uncomprehendingly observe the catastrophe and report at its margins.
But when viewed from the ideological perspective of our central planners, we are on their desired track of fundamentally transforming into an unexceptional, guilt-ridden, economically strapped, and internationally compliant nation that will be integrated into a new world order on terms that we will be in no position to refuse. Given what they have been taught, the legions of new voters spilling out of our governments’ educational pipeline will have it no other way – developmentally deficient democracy in action.
Google has announced the launch of its Baseline Study – a “moonshot” research effort to obtain the quantitative description of a healthy human body along with early precursors to the likelihood of eventual dreaded diseases. They’ll do this by assembling initially hundreds then thousands of volunteers who will donate their bodily data placed into an anonymous data bank. Researchers from Google Research, interested universities, and even private enterprises will ‘mine’ this data to create information that will be useful for administering personal and aggregate healthcare programs. (more here)
There’s a disquieting aspect to this report. Google’s efforts will be monitored by institutional review boards, primarily at Stanford and Duke. It is they who will determine “who are allowed” to analyze the data. And one of their prime efforts is to see that the data doesn’t get into the hands of insurance companies, and employers, and people planning to marry each other, and … . At this point most people are at a loss as how to evaluate this kind of oversight, and the cited WSJ article doesn’t provide much help. As RR readers know, there is a huge difference between data and information, the latter being made from the former. (more here)
To me it is clear that the assembled and maintained raw (and anonymous) database should be made very public, available for anyone to download or send away for a DVD that costs a nominal fee (determined by Google) to duplicate and mail. The information made from the data by various researchers may be confidential and/or proprietary, depending how it was developed and who paid for the effort. The information sets themselves become assets which may be incorporated into other software and decision support systems that should be able to be marketed like any other kind of information so derived.
[Apologies for my recent silence. We were doing a little trailering with friends in the future State of Jefferson during the past week ;-) When SoJ comes to pass, one of the first orders of business is to spread broadband far and wide. And we can, of course, start that right here in Nevada County. Did everyone see D'Souza's film 'America'? Apparently every leftie in town went to see it, and then packed the movie's review page with horrible posts. But, hey, at least it's good to see them put their money where their mouth isn't.]
In genereal liberals are not stupid; many of them just have bad luck when they think. (However, this cannot be said of California liberals).
As we await details of the House suit against this Executive, it might be good to remind ourselves what kind of thinking has put the country into a tailspin.
1. When you are against government providing a service or subsidizing a class of people, you are immediately pilloried as wanting to deny everyone the benefits of such service, or ‘waging war’ and/or ‘hating’ members of the subsidized class. You stand loudly accused of this no matter that the service can be freely and widely obtained elsewhere without government funding. And you are a hating warmonger no matter that you can demonstrate most government funding programs at worst exacerbate the stated problem, and at best are totally ineffective.
2. Given a uniform history of failures, the same government funded/imposed solution should be applied again because this time it really will work – besides, the data on past failures can simply be denied as partisan.
3. Messages from the wrong messengers need never be evaluated on their merits.
4. Government funded science should serve a prescribed social agenda and tailor its results accordingly. Science not funded by government is prima facie suspect.
5. Imposing calcifying regulations on an area of rapidly evolving enterprise is always good, especially when done without any understanding of the enterprise or examination of the effect of the new regulations.
6. Tax rates have no impact on the practice of taxed activities, or how much of the taxed products/services will be available to and/or demanded by the markets.
7. Unmediated democracy based on universal suffrage and franchise is the best form of government. Fair and just government results from allowing everyone to vote on everything. In the aggregate, all people are informed, wise, and rational. (Victor Davis Hanson gives us an overview here of what such people abet and abide.)
8. The government and the country are one. If you criticize and oppose government, then you are not a loyal American and subject to sanction.
9. There should be no limit on what fraction of GDP is made up of government spending.
10. Jobs are created by judicious government spending, and destroyed by corporate greed.
11. Taxing corporations impacts only overcompensated management and speculators in the corporation’s shares.
12. Above a certain TBD level government owns essentially all of your earnings.
13. Above a certain TBD level government owns ALL of your property and can charge you rent for its use.
14. All debts public and private can be forgiven at the pleasure of the government. All savings may be confiscated at any time for the public good.
15. The Founders erred when they provided Americans the means to vote with their boots, bullets, and ballots. Voting should only be possible with ballots.
16. Equality can always be increased without diminishing liberty.
This is a partial list. And recent examples of such thinking in action are readily available from the daily press. Two come to mind today.
American corporations pay the world’s highest taxes, averaging about 40% when all federal, state, and local taxes are included. This adds pressure to other reasons to relocate overseas – lower labor costs, taxes, proximity to world markets, less onerous regulations, declining access to investment capital, … . The promised tax reform is not coming, so corporations have increased the pace of ‘inversions’ – merging with overseas companies so as to relocate their headquarters offshore and essentially become foreign companies. This year we have already seen 14 inversions and more are cooking.
So what do the brainiacs in Obama’s administration propose, lower corporate taxes? Nooo, SecTreas Lew wants Congress to pass more onerous restrictions that prevent such moves. The collateral damage from such butt stupid solutions are manifold (more here and here).
Think tanks on the left are proposing that the top income tax rate be raised to 80% with an added 10% “wealth tax”. This would be the latest in government’s trashing the Constitution’s takings clause and exercise of eminent domain for public use (SCOTUS essentially trashed the latter in Kelso v New London which allows government to transfer property from one private owner to a more favored private owner). But the wealth tax is a dooser, any such tax is a constructive rent on the use of your former property which now tacitly belongs to the government (more here).
We’re told that the Army has put Sgt Bowe Bergdahl back on normal duty. He is done decompressing from his five years with the Taliban, and there are no extraordinary restrictions on his movements or activities while the Army continues to investigate the conditions of his departure and stay with the Afghan ragheads.
As a veteran I have strong feelings about what went down on 30 June 2009 when Bergdahl up and walked away from his unit. And I must confess, I weigh heavily the statements made by the six GIs from his unit who were with him on that day. In their judgment, he simply deserted his post as a member of a deployed combat unit. We are also told that the Army has yet to interview the men who served with him, and were witness to his departure and the conduct that preceded it.
We do know that lives were lost and troops were wounded in the course of conducting searches for Bergdahl. We do know that his relationship with his captors changed markedly during the time he spent with them. The Army also has intelligence reports that tell of his conversion to Islam and declaring himself to be a “mujahid”. (more here)
We and the world know that Obama traded five senior Taliban leaders from Gitmo for the release of Bergdahl. The price for freeing those experienced and sworn enemies of America and western civilization has yet to be paid.
From everything I have seen and read, our Army is now conducting a politicized investigation whose conclusions are again being molded in the White House. In this regard I’m reminded of how the Army concluded that its Muslim Major Hasan’s 2009 massacre of 13 fellow soldiers while wounding 30 others at Ft Hood was termed “workplace violence” as he pumped bullets into helpless comrades while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ The record and evidence of his jihadist behavior was totally discounted in his long-planned act of terror. With this administration our insane policy toward Islam ruled the day, and the new Army toed the line.
(Readers who have paid attention know that this administration has replaced entire cadres of flag officers who could no longer stomach the course our country is taking. The current cohort of compliant senior officers have much stronger stomachs.)
But coming back to Bergdahl, some questions remain. After all these years away, why does he still refuse to talk to his anxious parents, the very same people who tirelessly worked for his release and were paraded by Obama in that now infamous Rose Garden announcement? What is the evidence that he is not a taqiyya practicing Muslim like Hasan was? Why is Sgt Bergdahl allowed to walk free within the company and respect of other soldiers; what evidence does the Army have that permits them to grant such latitude not afforded to other military personnel who deserted their post and were confined while waiting for their court martial? And there’s much more that the man has to answer before we can put Sgt Bergdahl behind us.
In the end I come back to his comrades-in-arms and the institution of the ‘buddy rating’ that is time honored in the military. In the various intense training courses that military people are put through, teamwork is the main idea that is drilled into each of us. There we are put into situations where the mission cannot be accomplished save through competence, ingenuity under stress, and selfless dedication by each member of the team. The bonds developed during such training and hardship deployments are hard to convey to those who have not had the privilege. And as the history of heroism attests, members of such units have routinely gone above and beyond the call for each other.
The other side of such bondedness is each team member’s intimate knowledge of how his comrades perform. A shirker or incompetent member may be able to hide his deficit from his commander, but never from his ‘buddies’. That is why one of the main factors in evaluating the capability, performance, and character of a combat unit member is the ‘buddy rating’ in which each team member confidentially rates (actually ranks) every other team member in the several categories important to the unit’s mission.
In combat, I am sure that Bergdahl’s mates would most certainly have risked and perhaps even given their lives for each other. But they also knew what each was ‘made of’, and would never expect or accept a team member’s defection. From the public testimony of his teammates, we know that Bowe Bergdahl failed his buddy rating.