We take a back seat to no one including the New York Times or Wal-Mart for our cut-rate prices for opinions gleaned from the tomes of the ancients to the garbage heap of the daily news.
The recent news of the gas line explosion was tragic to be sure but it calls to mind the gas explosion of the New London School in East Texas in the depths of the Depression. In the mid ’30’s the local school exploded one day with the deaths of over 200 kids. The entire community was devastated as one can imagine. This was in the days before they added methane to the gas lines so you could smell the odor and have some warning of a leak. You can look up the old photos of the event.
Military power and political goals have worked hand in glove since the dawn of recorded history. The annals are replete with a big army showing up on someone’s doorstep and then the negotiations begin. Without a battle the larger force more often than not got its desired object. Military power doesn’t always have to be used, just visible and credible to serve the political purposes. Read your Bible for many of these lessons. With this in mind it is concerning to see the steady buildup of the Chinese military power both its land forces and especially its Naval power and the new missile systems it is deploying. We are only a couple of decades away from the Chinese exerting influence over the entire Pacific area by the sheer force of its military power and the projection of that power. Remember we never know for sure what they are spending on their military we only know what the Communist Party wishes to have published. A real concern for our children.
The recent Turkish vote on their Constitutional amendments put the nail in the coffin for the foreseeable future for entry into the Common Market. The vote was a victory for the Islamists pure and simple. The Germans are already very worried about the number of Turks in their land and the influence of Islamists views spreading. The Germans will not agree to their entry with this tilt to a more radical Islamist governing body. France is nearly as repelled at the moment so the Turks will turn more to their Muslim neighbors for future development. Good luck with that. They missed a historical moment to truly join the modern world with that step back into the dark.
Many on the left in this country wish for more government involvement in our economy and a far larger role for government employment policies. They want even more people working directly or indirectly for the government. Big government, big control. They like it that the slice of the GDP controlled by the Federal government is growing. Curious that Cuba which has complete control of the economy by central planning is laying off 500,000 workers with the comment that the government payrolls are “bloated”. And we are following their example? Guess some believe we are nothing but lemmings who will follow any Pied Piper promising easy money, to mix some metaphors.
Is it just me but is professional football becoming more and more like the WWE? These celebrations for the most routine of plays is very annoying and completely unsportsmanlike. Play the game, do your assigned job and then get back to the huddle. Those tattoos look like a Las Vegas strip gone wild. Explain those to your grandchildren some day.
From Proverbs to Jefferson it has been noted that debt is slavery. Is the US on the path to enslaving all its people? Do the math and you will see the tens of thousands you owe for your share of the public debt, not counting of course the “trust” funds in the Social Security agency. You didn’t put this on your credit card the politicians did it for you and in your name. But we elected them. Lots of us don’t like being enslaved by politicians from all over the country who don’t represent our views. Why can Sanders and Schumer cause me to go into debt? I didn’t even vote for or against them and can’t vote them out no matter how much I disagree with their views. Pelosi and the others keep using my identity to charge on my credit card for things I don’t want.
One of the most peaceful places to spend a summer afternoon is high in the Jemez mountains just west of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Going north from Santa Fe you take the turn off to Los Alamos. A visit to the museum is well worth the stop. Then proceed north and west on the state highway toward Farmington over the Jemez peaks. A few miles down the road you will come to a very large valley high in the mountains. Believe me you can’t miss it. It is about a mile wide and probably three miles long. It is ringed with the aspen and pine trees and the mountain tops. The valley is lush with high grass in the summer months. The cattle will be chomping it. You will see the ranch house off on the far side of the valley. It is peaceful and very beautiful. It is also very unknown. It is off the beaten trail of tourists. It is a wonderful place to spend a few hours and contemplate your life and journey. You can also fly fish in the stream running down from the mountains into the valley. If God didn’t make this place then I want to know who is Mother’s Nature’s decorator.
Just like FDR made farmers plow up their crops to increase demand and prices, the cash for clunkers program required that all the autos traded in had to be destroyed. Of course that made the prices for the reduced number of used cars go up. You and or a friend tried buying one lately? You tell me if that program on our credit card really helped the economy? http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com
Our high school and college students are often taught a revisionist view of history regarding the cultures of the East and the West. As Rome fell and the West descended into the dark ages they are taught that the sciences, literature and the arts flourished in the East. The impression given is that the East was the well-spring of all things worthy in a society and that the East was where all matters of culture were revered and cherished. Yes, they did indeed have some wonderful art and knew a bit of science just as Euclid did in the West. But the lesson given in class is that the West was historical a barbaric place that only survived or flourished due to its contact with the East. As is so often the case with history that is a cherry-picked version and ignores some of the other aspects of history of East and West. To glean a true picture of history’s lessons it is always best to know a lot of it and have a context and not ignore the unpleasant features of any society to have a complete picture of its worth.
Late in the 3rd century B.C. the Emperor Shih Huang T established hegemony over all of settled China. He wished to replace the feudal system and centralize control of the Empire in his hands. His control would lead indirectly to the creation of the Han Dynasty that lasted for over 400 years. He had to eliminate he believed the old ways of thinking to accomplish his goals especially the Confucian theories. So in 214 B. C. he had all the books gathered for burning. He meant all the books. Only those that dealt with agriculture, divination, and medicine could be preserved. This was the infamous Burning of the Books. You had to take all your books to the local magistrate for burning before him. Anyone who even discussed or opined on the classic works from the past were subject to death and then their bodies were displayed in the public market places. Those who resisted were so dispatched and those speaking out likewise were slaughtered along with all members of their family. The lucky ones who did not comply escaped death but were sent to the Chinese Gulag of the day to work on the Great Wall.
There was resistance to the decree. As always when you are dealing with a great number of people there were a few here and there that managed to save some of the books in caches and remembered the words and lessons of Confucius and the other Chinese classics from a by- gone era. Like always time passed and the intensity of the decree waned and slowly the handful of surviving books emerged. Confucius was only partially successful earlier but like the Christians the followers endured suffering and Confucianism endured to become the dominant philosophical view of the Chinese as its principles spread anew. It was an attempt to completely wipe out an old society and replace it with a new one. Two thousand years later Mao tried again to do the same thing with his Great Cultural Revolution of the “60’s and ’70’s.
The revolt against Ti brought the Han Dynasty to power. The new emperor was Liu Pang of peasant origin. The feudal system was destroyed and never returned but from that time to the present day China has lived under a government of one kind or another that has centralized control and follows an official ideology. Diversity of opinion and governance have not been tolerated in China during all these centuries.
Many historians have decried the destruction of the great library at Alexandria in the 4th century A. D. and it was a tragic loss by the Christian zealots of the era. But it was not a policy of the governing powers to destroy all vestiges of the past rather the action of an excited mob. The Chinese experience was quiet different. The West did lose some very valuable information of the accumulated ages and so did the Chinese.
History is always more complicated than the headlines of the day or even the learned reflections from scholars if one examines the actual facts rather than the conclusions of the intelligentsia. Everyone is entitled to their interpretation of history or a given set of facts but at least all the facts should be presented. Let history report and you decide for yourself. Make sweeping conclusions only after you have surveyed the total field of past events. You can figure it out for yourself as well as Gibbon or Durant.
Does fiat currency have a future in the world? It has only been around for less than a century and as we all know things change. The current economic turmoil around the world adds to the anxiety of people regarding the value of their money. Gold may not return as the ultimate storehouse of value but people are increasingly concerned worldwide about being able to translate their currency into something of value. Fiat currency is based on nothing but confidence and raw power. As confidence wanes and power centers become blurry one wonders if a new scheme as a medium of exchange will emerge. www.olcranky.wordpress.com
Those headlines would deserve equal credit as to newsworthiness in a sane world. But over the last 18 months or so since the current administration took the reins of power such news is heralded as the most wonderous of events. I watched some of the “ceremony” at GM this morning as they breathlessly announced their repayment of 5.8 billion to the US and Canadian governments as though that was some stupendous achievement. There was lots of hoopla and all that was lacking was the confetti and balloons. All that happened in reality was that the government paid itself. Not one darn bit different than if you wrote a check to yourself out of your checking account and then deposited it right back.
The fact of the matter is that Government, Inc. owns GM. It is merely paying itself. The fact that they have been able to make a profit should come as no surprise to anyone with an IQ higher than weeds. You could take almost any major company from the Standard and Poors 500 that had lots of debt and do the same thing as occurred with GM. I mean the “new” GM came out of the government mandated Chapter 11 with nothing but assets. All its debts were left behind with the old GM. Is it remarkable at all that given that scenario it has made a profit? The surprise would have been if it made only a small profit.
Don’t forget that in addition to the 5.8 billion in direct loans during the Chapter 11 that GM had a capital infusion of about 50 billion. Give me a company with no debt and a fresh 50 billion to play with and I will guarantee you a profit even if I was selling buggy whips. Also don’t forget that GMAC its partner in crime also got I believe it was over 40 billion in Government funds to continue its financing arrangement. This was conveniently done under TARP when GMAC during the holidays of ’08 was converted into a “financial” institution with a bank charter from the Feds.
The power brokers and czars in Washington must think we really have a short attention span or they are contemptuous of our ability to reason. Speaking of czars, you have surely noticed that Mr. Rattner who lead the government team doing all the negotiating with creditors of GM has run into his own buzz saw of accusations recently. Really nice to know we had such an honorable fellow carefully selected by the White House to run that show and ram through the Chapter 11 of GM. This entire situation is another example of the danger of the too big to fail syndrome that has consumed Washington since the fall of ’08. The financial regulations being proposed by Dodd, of Countrywide fame, does not solve this problem but only exacerbates it. Please read it for yourself. The fine print gives authority to bureaucrats appointed and funded by the politicians the say to determine who is a systemic risk and what should be done. It allows them to determine who will be paid and how. Worst of all it allows for unlimited government backing of the credit of a failing company. If it quacks like a bailout, walks like a bailout, it is a bailout regardless of the headline news and the disclaimers of Dodd. Geithner defends it so you know it must be a really bad idea.
Every time you buy a GM car or part you are supporting the gang in Washington. It is not a private company but a captive of government and in turn the auto unions which were the real raison d’etre behind the bailout of GM in the first place. I hate it that I can’t support them anymore. Years ago I loved my Suburban. Unfortunately they have become part of the problem with our economy and government and not any contribution to the solution or a better path for the country. The Democrats got themselves even more loyal ground troops for the political wars. They already had the overwhelming majority anyway but now they have tens of thousands of cadre to send out on the political warpath. Even better for them every GM car sold is nothing more than a political contribution for the largest political PAC supporting Democratic candidates there ever was.
The great pyramids in Egypt are quite something to behold. More remarkable is the preciseness of the engineering that was employed with only the most rudimentary of tools. They had no GPS or laser controlled measuring or surveying devices. Line of sight, plumb bobs and string and knowledge of basic geometry is what they worked with. The Great Pyramid near Assuan was about 150 yards high and was about 250 yards wide on each side of its base. Those blocks weighed a lot. There were 7 yards long and hand to be man-handled to the top. Amazingly, the engineers were so good with their limited tools that the mean error of the base line was only 6/10’s of an inch in length and 12 seconds in angle from a perfect square. I wonder if we could do that well today. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com
There have been many great empires over the course of history. They have all fallen so far at one time or another. Some have been very brief in the grand view of history such as that of Napoleon which lasted less than a generation. Even the Soviet empire lasted only about three generations which is nothing more than a whisper in the march of time since the arrival of homo sapiens. Today Iraq is in our news on a regular basis but we often forget the ancient history of that region and the lessons of empire that come from there.
Probably the first true empire was created there over 5 thousand years ago. It was the Sumerians. They came to have hegemony over that region of southern Iraq and spread that control and influence from the Persian Gulf to Northestern Turkey and up to the Northwestern reaches of modern Iran and the areas all around the southern Caspian Sea. But several centuries later the Amorites came from the area of modern Israel and took over the area. The Sumerians like so many other empires collapsed from trying to control too large and area and too many diverse peoples. It drained them. The Amorites created the Babylonian Empire. Their greatest leader was Hammurabi who established the Hammurabi Code of laws. The first known codification of laws that regulated the criminal and commercial activities of a people. The Amorites didn’t establish a “new” civilization they mostly assumed control of the existing one of the Sumerians. They absorbed the Sumerian civilization into their own culture. They controlled the region now but weren’t really that much different than the Sumerians.
As with the Sumerians they were under constant attack from the fringes of their empire much as they Romans would be centuries later. Finally the pressure from these constant forays depleted their power and the Hittites came and sacked the capital and took control. The Hittites are also known from Biblical days just as the Amorites. The Hittities came from the north around the Caucasus mountains. By now it was the Semitic language that endured in the region. The Conquerors adopted it as their own over time. Next was another of the famous Biblical peoples from Genesis that came. It was the Assyrians from the northern part of Iraq. Their citadel was Nineveh. The place where Jonah as to go and spread the belief in God of the Old Testament. The Assyrian leader even went so far as to adopt the title of King of Sumer-Akkadia which was a tacit acknowledgement of the continuing influence of the Sumerian civilization centuries after the “Sumerians” were long gone as a military or political force. They held sway for several centuries before they succumbed. They were assailed on all fronts the old Babylonians from the south, the Medes from modern Persia and the Scythians from the Black Sea region. It was at this time that the Jews were taken into captivity and marched to Babylon. It was only in the 6th century B. C. that this Sumerian based empire finally collapsed and lost all cohesion with the conquest of the region by the Persians and Cyrus the Great.
The Roman empire during it slow glide into submission also absorbed the very people who were bent on conquering her. Attila the Hun was a subject of the Roman empire and indeed wanted to become a great leader of that Empire. He attacked when his ambitions were thwarted. Even after his sack of Rome he continued to have his own family and other of his lieutenants intermarry with the great Roman families. He wanted to defeat Rome but at the same time he envied the Roman culture. After the complete collapse of the Roman empire all learned peoples of the civilized world continued to admire and adopt as many Roman ways as they could. The language endures to this day even if not sp0ken by any general populace. But any medical student will tell you it endures. One of the most cherished titles any leader of Europe could claim for centuries after the fall of Rome was that of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The “empire” lasted for almost a thousand years even if for most of that time it was merely a shell and echo of the former glory of Rome.
All these empires have left a lasting mark on mankind. Some brought us the use of mathematics and higher math like geometry. Others have left a legacy with their language still in active use or the roots of it all over modern language. Some gave us the foundation of democracy and the rights of the people to have a say over their lives and government. The most human of activities–to write and communicate came from these empires. Thought without the ability to express it to others is of limited value. Writing brought our minds to a higher level and sharpened our intellectual keenness. They all left clear and lasting footprints in the path of civilization which we follow even today.
One wonders what the footprints will be of the US a few centuries from now. Some empires came and went without a truly lasting impression on the journey of man. The Aztecs were an interesting empire but they left nothing of scientific or cultural value that has been emulated by others over the centuries. When we inevitably decline at some point will our values, systems of governance and religious beliefs be deemed worthy by our progeny and yes, even our eventual conquerors to endure long after we have faded into the mists of history?
“Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups or relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State” Mussolini. Hmm, makes one wonder. www.olcranky.wordpress.com
Sadly our society promotes the idea that we are all victims of one type or the other. The armed robber isn’t really a bad guy he just grew up in a bad neighborhood and wasn’t motivated to complete his schooling. The person at the other end of his gun isn’t the real victim it is that poor robber we should recognize deserves our sympathy. All those folks in homes they couldn’t afford are victims of those greedy people in the mortgage business who foisted those loans on them. It wasn’t their fault they took out those loans; they were victimized by Wall Street barons. You would think they were Shanghaied into those loan offices and forced to sign up on the dotted line. I dare you to peruse the news on any day without finding an example of this mentality. Even those poor water rats in San Francisco are the victims of greedy developers and uncaring people. Naturally the politicians are eager to promote and nurture this attitude because it gives them a “base” to pander to. For every victim there is a Federal remedy. Hey, what do you think the bailout for the Big Three is all about. There is very little discussion about what management and the unions did wrong over the decades to destroy a real American icon of industry. Now they are victims of a bad economy or this or that. It isn’t their own greed that got them were they are we are lead to believe.
Rather than taking responsibility for our own actions it appears we have that victim response wired into our dna from the git go. You are reminded of the earliest known story of Man on this earth. It illustrates how easy it is to not step up and say “yes, I did it, it was wrong, but I can do better and pledge to try”. Far too often we want to say it wasn’t my fault and what are you going to do for me about this. In the garden of Eden Adam was given the most wonderful gift imaginable by God. He got a companion. Some one with whom to share the joys and sorrows of life. Of all life’s benefits there is non greater than that. God had planted the tree of knowledge in the garden. He warned Adam that he could have everything in the garden but he should not partake of the fruit of that one tree. He was warned and knew the consequences would be bad if he violated the rule. There was only that one rule. It wasn’t complicated. The serpent came and tempted Eve. He lured her. He told her the fruit was good for her and would make her wise. Isn’t it so often true that what we know to be wrong comes packaged so invitingly? How often do we ignore the warnings to succumb to the action we feel in our very bones will come to a bad end? She ate the fruit and then she in turn became the temptress and lured Adam to eat the fruit also. They were no longer the innocent babes as they had been and donned the fig leaves. Ones year olds are so innocent. They play together regardless of sex and revel in the pleasure of shared experiences without guile.
When later God next came to vist, Adam and Eve went and hid from Him. They knew they had violated the rule. God found them. Like all our wrongs do inevitably emerge no matter how hard we try to hide them. Here the story turns to the heart of man and that additional temptation to avoid responsibility. Adam is about to compound his wrongdoing. When God asked Adam if he had eaten the fruit Adam pointed the finger of blame elsewhere you recall. He didn’t step up and admit his wrong. He said it was the woman that tempted me. Implying that nothing would have ever happened if he hadn’t been victimized by her. In turn God asked Eve and she put the blame on the serpent, not herself. They were the first victims in society if you believe their version of events rather than the first ones to fall short and refuse to accept the blame and responsibility for their actions. Now it is the Government, not the serpent who wants to tempt us.
We do have examples of people who have not dodged their responsibilities and duties. The list in history is replete. We need to choose which we want to be –the victims in everything or the achievers and more honest folk of this earth. Those who have resisted the lure of victimhood are a shinning examples from the pages of history. You can make your own list of heroes. The true titans of our past were not the ones who accepted the role of victim ever. They got on their hind legs and walked the extra mile and so often in the doing they dragged us along with them. Thank goodness for that. Solomon, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Churchill, Martin Luther, and so many more have shown us the way. We need leaders now who feel for true victims of the accidents and evils of life but not those who promote the idea that everything is not your fault and the role of Government is to find every victim and right every perceived, as opposed to real, wrong. Too many in Government today in fact thrive on finding victims where common sense and morality would reject the notion. Victims vote contrary to Adam and Eve.
I still can’t get my head around the idea of the speed of light being a constant. You know that if you are riding a motorbike inside a moving train your total speed will be the speed of the train plus the speed of the bike as you move forward down the aisles. The same is not true for the speed of light. It moves at the same speed regardless of any external factor. I guess that is why it is considered a constant in physics. Still hard to comprehend for the great unwashed though.
As we are about to embark upon an enormous expansion of our Government into the economy and therefore into our daily lives we should take a moment to reflect upon the implications of Government when it becomes the biggest dog on the block. We should start with the basics and and recall that our Constitution is about limiting government. It carefully delineates the powers afforded to our government and sets forth the powers that are to remain with the people or the states. It also details the rights that government cannot abridge, limit or restrict. Please read it again. You can do that in about 10 minutes. Our Constitution was not designed with the idea that government would be all powerful. It was created to be powerful enough to protect us from danger and to provide the framework for each of us to have the maximum freedom to make our own way in life without undue interference from the government. It historically has always been a tricky business to get the balance right between the power of the government and the people. That struggle was at the heart of the revolt against Caesar. You may remember that Caesar was taking more and more power and limiting the powers of the Senate. Many thought that was the wrong way to go and that too much power in a centralized form (in this case, in the hands of Caesar) was the path to loss of freedom and the rights of the people. Thus Caesar was slain. History probably proved those conspirators to be right. For all its faults and shortcomings the Empire did endure for hundreds of years after the death of Caesar and all the Emporers were sensitive to the rights of the people even when they abused those rights and ruled like tyrants. The situation usually righted itself over time and another good Caesar would come along like Marcus Aurelius.
Government can be an instrument for good but also a hive of evil when its powers reach too far. Germany in the ’30’s and Russia during its revolution are both powerful lessons for this proposition. In Germany the people after the devastation of the War and then the inflation and depression were looking to their government for help and they did need it. Problem was that as the government did improve the daily life of the common man it also gained power. The government under Hitler did better the lives of the people for several years. He had his own stimulus package and built the autobahns and started the Volkswagen works and generally got their economy rolling with government intervention. Likewise, the Russians had been suppressed for so long that the new government seemed a savior to most of them during the ’20’s and soon most of them were eating at least and the government was busy building them places to live even if shoddy and they had medical care, when they could get their turn in line. That government also gained in power with each passing year and the people in both those nations ceded more and more authority to their central governments to run and control everything. Please read some histories of both those nations during these periods for your own study and reflection.
When government becomes more powerful it also becomes subject to the inevitable accumulation of power in fewer and fewer hands. This combined with the control of the government over every aspect of one’s life from school, to work, housing, medical care and money makes the people dependent upon the government. It is supposed to be the other way around in a democracy where the government is dependent upon the people. Both those nations reached tipping points and soon the government was the dominant and all powerful determiner of your life. The government was no longer the servant of the people but the people were there only to serve the government and those who controlled it. The more power gets centralized the more it becomes like a vortex sucking everything into its maw. Our Federal system was designed to prevent this from happening. Sadly our states and people are ceding more and more power to Washington rather than retaining it for themselves and their states. We have reached the point where Washington taxes us so much that the states are going to it now hat in hand begging for money. If the Federal taxes were lower in the first place there would be more revenue for the states to use for those projects and benefits they believe necessary for their people. Where in the Constitution does it give power to the Federal government to control local schooling? That is supposed to be a purely local matter and should be. Why are we needing to go to Washington to get funds for new school buildings or anything else related to schooling?
We have pampered our dog and fed it too much and now it has reached the point that it is becoming the master. We should consider restoring a balance of power between the people and government again. Everyone in Germany in 1934 thought things were going so well until they woke up one fine morning and realized that the government was not there anymore to serve them but had become their master. Let’s not let the lessons of history go unheeded. At least study and think about it. If you think the government has not become too powerful and will not that is fine. Just make sure your conclusion is informed and thoughtful. To say it couldn’t happen here is too puerile.
Gravity is such a strange creature. It is on the one hand so powerful it can kill you and on the other it is so very weak compared to some of the other fundamental elements of our universe. If it was really powerful you wouldn’t be able to function to move about because the force of gravity would pull you this way and that between objects.