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2 Cents Worth On Life Its Ownself

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

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Horizon–Part II

As he left the terminal he plugged in the destination code once he was on the major thoroughfare.   The trip shouldn’t take more than 22 minutes the computer announced and he would be advised when to take manual control again.   The highway was lined with squat buildings in pastel colors.    The tops of the mountains just peeked over the roof tops of the buildings.  He had never been to mountains before.  He had been in the hills around LA but nothing like these.  He had been to Boulder often over the years.  There was where he went for his initial training and orientation.  Then every few years he had been back for special training sessions or updates on new prohibitions.   He had always seen the mountains from his window and had wanted to go there to explore, just explore.  They always appeared so cool, green and inviting.   But he had never even applied for the permit to go there.  At his rank he was afraid that G would think he was trying to step up higher than his station in life.

As you advanced down the road he noticed tiny motes reflecting in the sunlight as it cut through the windshield and across his lap.   Then he saw the fly on the dash as it crawled along the instrument displays.   That sight immediately reminded him of that video he saw years ago.   One of the very few times his decision was challenged and overruled by the supervisor.    He couldn’t recall the name of the video but he remembered the man’s name–Charles Lindbergh.  They called him Lucky Lindy.  He liked that alliteration.  There was a scene  where Lindbergh noticed a fly in the cockpit of his flying machine as he crossed the Atlantic.  The fly was his only companion and for a while he used the fly to distract him from his fatigue and  boredom.   He thought it was a great story and inspiring.   But he was reprimanded by his supervisor. 

In fact he was very frightened by the whole incident.  He had approved the video for general audience use.   “This video does nothing but glorify the individual.  The team, the group and their collective efforts are what are important and should be held up as examples.   You know how G feels about individualism”.   He got the message loud and clear.  In fact his next evaluation was only “satisfactory” after getting exemplary several assessments in a row.   He had quickly gone back and restricted viewing of the video to authorized researchers and G staff that were G-15 or higher in grade.

He could see Boulder now off against the foothills ahead of him.   There wasn’t much time left to make up his mind about going through with this.  For weeks now he had convinced himself he wanted to do this and that he thought doing it gave him a higher purpose and meaning for his life.   But now that he was face to face with the reality of handing over the material he couldn’t help but be frightened by what would happen.   He knew they caught people all the time breaking the Rules.  He knew like everyone that they were “processed” but no one ever find out what that meant.  The offenders weren’t seen any more.    Some rumored that they were exiled to the hinterlands down south or way up north but no one had confirmed any of that.   It was against the Rules to ask about such people even if they were in the married contingent.

Would handing over this material make any difference to anyone?   That was the whole point in doing it but he was beginning to have doubts.   After all what did he know about her?   She talked well and was informed about much more than he was but she could be an Enforcer as well as anything else.   He had had ridiculous day dreams about them becoming a union and maybe even having a child.  He didn’t even know her why would he have such thoughts?  Besides even if they had a union there was no assurance they would be selected for child rearing.  Only half the people were allowed birth rights at this time and that was restricted to one child.  He remembered as a small boy the horror stories about the cloning and gene engineering efforts to produce children without the union.  The results were failure and grotesque.   Even the organs and genes from those experiments were considered to dangerous to exploit.  He had always wondered what G  did with the ones that were only physically impaired.   The Outlet reported that they were sent to special schools and facilities for their care.  He remembered though that one of the sites he eliminated was a supposed report alleging that they had all been removed and then killed.

“Take manual control, take manual control” .  He hated that monotone when it crackled at him to begin the driving again and to watch for his exit.  The vehicle slowed to accommodate his slower response time and he saw the exit for the training center.   The package was the same size as it was when he inserted it in LA but suddenly it felt huge in his waistband.   He took the street for the training center where he was expected this morning and where he was to spend the next three days.  Other than being larger it was not much different from those buildings lining the highway from Denver to here.   Who picked those pastel colors?   Couldn’t they ever have earth tones, black, whites, grays and red brick even.  He had seen many such buildings and houses on the sites he had viewed over the years.   He liked that look much better but he wouldn’t know who to make that suggestion to and it would only draw attention to him if he did.  He pulled into the rental or public lot and got out of his car.  It was time.  Either he could go directly into the training center or cross the street to the food and necessaries dispensary and his expected hand off  of the package.

to be continued….www.olcrankywordpress.com

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Culture East And West And The Original Fahrenheit 451

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

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Dog Bites Man And Govt. Motors Pays Itself

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

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Conquerors Or Conguerored?

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

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Watch Who You Invite To Dinner–They Might Eat You

That old saw about being careful what you ask for because you just might get it is often really true.   This can be especially true with the direction and power of government “we” claim we want to embrace.  They always start off with promises of help; they are coming to the rescue and will help you with a particular problem that seems to big for you to manage on your own. 

At the beginning of the 5th century the Roman empire was in the last stages of its decline.  It had withdrawn at this time from Britain where it had ruled supreme for over 350 years.  Britain during that period was as much a Roman province as any other.  But the Empire was in decline and the last of its troops left for the Continent to fight the rear guard actions against the advancing Barbarians who were nibbling at every border of the Empire.  You may recall the movie about King Arthur made a few years ago where it was implied that Arthur was in fact one of the last of the Roman commanders and that he rose from the ashes of the Empire in Britain.  A romantic notion but there is no historical evidence to support that theory.  But we do know for a fact that in the mid 5th century that a local king named Vortigern gained a precarious control of most of southern Britain.  As usual he was having trouble with the Scots and even with many of his nearer neighbors who weren’t completely on board with the idea of a single government ruling the land.  He had rebellions locally and outright threats of invasion from the Scots.  The Scots had been troublesome for centuries.  That is why the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall during the reign of that Emperor.  It is quite impressive.  It is not as large as the Chinese Wall but very vast nonetheless.  It was erected along the border with the Scots specifically to keep them out.

Vortigern’s armies, if you could even call them that, were relatively small and had lost all their cutting edge after the departure of the Romans.  His rule was tenuous.  So he looked around for some help with his domestic discord and lack of military prowess.  He turned to the Saxons of coastal Germany.  He sent envoys to negotiate with them to come as mercenaries to bolster his arms.  Terms were reached and the Saxons came.  At first it was a very small group  estimated to be no more than a few boatloads of them to the east coast of Britain.  The leaders of this first band of Saxons were Hengist and Horsa and they liked what they saw.  They were given small encampments for their men and then their families plus they got supplies.  It worked for a while and the Saxons suggested even more troops and a permanent settlement near the Picts to thwart any advances by them.  Soon it was thousands.   Soon the Saxons realized that they really didn’t need the permission of the Brits to come there.  They liked the land.  More came and soon they were doing pretty much as they pleased and were not under the control of any Britain,
Vortigern or any other. 

Over a period of a century or so others came.  The Angles joined the slow conquest of the Isle.  They gave the name to the language we speak today.  The Jutes came along also.  There never was a D-Day or a singular invasion like with William the Conqueror some 500 years later.  A local prince or chieftain would decide to move to Britain and outfit his fleet and equip the people and off they would go to another unoccupied spot in Britain.   They were promised land, slaves, and spoils of their local victories and they took advantage of those military victories.  Within a period of a century Britain was now an Anglo-Saxon domain.  They were not guest, mercenaries or even conquerors any longer, they were the people of Britain.  The were invited to dinner and decided they liked the house so much they just moved in and dispossessed the prior owners.

There is a lesson there.   Choose your direction and associates very carefully.  A promise of aid and assistance might lead to more than you bargained for.  Someone is always in charge–a dictator, a State, a people.  Our secret in western civilization is that mostly we have had the people in charge.  Ever instance of a dictator or State being in charge has ended badly.

Wow, you can jump with glee.  You soon will have 16,500 new folks with the Federal government to help you.  That is the number of new IRS agents to be hired under the health care bill to enforce the taxes and penalties imposed on individuals and companies.  I didn’t realize it was such a big jobs bill.  Gosh, I can’t wait to give them even more money to ride our backs.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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D. C. –Central Command and Control For Economy

The progressive march toward D. C. controlling greater portions of our economy has been moving steadily forward since the time of FDR.  There have been a few short eras of retrenchment but the floodgates were opened when the Supreme Court adopted a “no limit” on the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution in the ’30’s.   Since then it has been pretty much anything that Congress wanted to enact became law regardless of the restrictions of the enumerated powers or the Tenth Amendment.  The safety net programs started in the ’30’s have exploded not only in size but scope.  The size increase is at least understandable due to our increase in population but the expansion of programs isn’t due to population growth but rather an attitude that government should control more of our lives and economy.

Naturally, once you control the economy you pretty much control everything of significance in people’s lives.   That continuing explosion of government power has been relentless.    Fifty years ago we only had half as many Cabinet positions as we have today.  That alone should tell you something.   The bureaus, agencies and administrations has grown like the proverbial mushroom in the dark overnight.   History is replete with examples of centrally controlled economies and the results of same.   You might think that Rome was the earliest example.  That would be partially true but the fact is that Rome only gave fairly broad requirements to the outer provinces and left the local economy pretty much on its own and the administration to the local Proconsul.   Rome would give a list of needs in the form of monies or goods it expected to receive and the details of delivery were left up to the local folks for the most part.   Likewise the British at the height of its empire under the Mercantilism method pretty much left local matters to local folks.  Social welfare issues were left up to the local counties and squires.  Britain did move toward a much more centrally controlled form of economy after WWII and the results were disasterous for several decades.  Look at the statistics on any basis you want from after the War to Thatcher and you will see that the economy was in the doldroms for that entire period of time.  The spark of innovation and incentives were missing during this period of time.  Businesses languished and in consequence the need for even greater welfare and social spending grew because the economy was not expanding and thus the job creation machine was not running at full capacity.

Naturally the clearest examples of centrally planned economies were those in the Soviet Union and China.  There all decisions came from those in power and were sent out to the hintelands.  It made no difference if the policies in Moscow were ridiculous for the nether reaches of that empire they had to be enforced.  The unintended consequences mounted and mounted over the years.  Actually WWII probably kept the Soviets in power longer than they would have been otherwise because it was such a traumatic event that people were concerned with mere survival rather than a “better” life.  That system had no incentives whatsoever and the lack of consumer goods and services in the Soviet Union were legendary.  What products they did produce were of poor quality and and the services were indifferent at best.  Read Solzhenetzin’s Cancer Ward to get a flavor of that era and what it means when all decisions come from far away and are made by the elite for the alleged good of the common man.

Our energy sector has been controlled by government for decades through regulation and tax policy.  Even if the government didn’t own outright positions in that sector it dictated policy.  Now that control is even more pronounced with the FERC and the new cap and tax proposals will hog tie one of our most productive and job producing industries.  It is the industry that is the most vital.  No modern economy can function without abundant energy.  Not merely enough but abundant.  That proposition cannot be gainsaid.  Government, Inc. controls throught ownership and regulations all our major banks at the moment and that gives it tremendous control over the entire economy.  If you control the banks you control who gets loans and who doesn’t and thus what industrial sector will thrive or whither on the vine.  At the moment 80% of all residential loans are made or insured by the government.  That is not good.  They control home ownership with that power rather than a free market and real world financial worthiness of borrowers and the risk assumption factor by lenders.   With GM and Chrysler owned and run by the government we have another important and large section of the economy controlled and run from D. C.  They will determine which unions are recognized, what cars will be built, pricing for our cars and even control the lending for those cars through GMAC which is government owned.  You might find it interesting that under the lending agreement with GM the current administration found that GM was a “financial institution” fr justification to lend from the TARP funds.   Of course we now face the prospect that Government, Inc. will soon control our health insurance and health care decisions from D. C.   That prospect should frighten any thoughtful person.  Even if you want everyone to have medical treatment why does everything have to be controlled from Washington?   What could be more personal than that.

People ultimately get the government they deserve.  If we truly want a government that dominants our lives and our economic welfare then it seems we will have that for a while.  Many aren’t ready to surrender their freedom yet for the yoke of government care.   Those views are at the opposite spectrums of the graph and perhaps we should acknowledge that and consider and peaceful parting of the ways.  Those two views of America can’t be reconciled, parting is such sweet sorrow.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Capitalism Dead or in Hibernation?

It seems as though every other day for the last couple of months there have been comments about the demise of capitalism or at least a radical governmental intervention into the market place to correct the perceived shortcomings of capitalism.   That has been  the lead story on the TV news networks and in the print media of late and has captured the front cover or front page on a few occasions.   That prediction has been made before for the US.  You are referred to the 1930’s and the very active movement of the left and the Socialist to bring socialism to these shores.   With the economic and social turmoil of that era and the aura of benign disregard of the abuses of the Soviets portrayed in the press of that time there was much talk then that the US would have socialism here.   The Roosevelt administration was on the march to a huge expansion of government and the unions were in the ascendency.   That union growth continued right into the ’60’s and then plateaued into the ’70’s and then began its  long but steady decline since then.

We Americans love our freedoms.  I believe this is true for all stripes of our political spectrum.  The far left and the far right both echo the calls for freedom.  They differ on which freedoms should be stressed and which should be more curtailed but the concept of maximum freedom for the people is a bedrock of our founding.  It has been true since the earliest Pilgrams first stepped ashore almost 4 centuries ago.   They were seeking greater freedom than allowed in their homelands in religion and in the broader area of personal freedom to move about and make of your life what you could with your own endeavors.  They were farther removed from the yoke of government and when the yoke became too heavy again we rebelled and our nation was born.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all about freedom and freedoms granted and guaranteed to the people and the states.  No other country was founded on the same basis in all of history.  Usually a country was created from common language, natural geographic boundaries, common religion and a consensus view of the power afforded the Emperor, King and autocrat in charge.  Freedom is at the heart and soul of capitalism.  Only and puny and diminished capitalism can exist with restricted freedoms.  The less freedom the less capitalism flourishes.  It has been with us in one form or another for several centuries now.   Capitalism as we would define it only came as the power of the monarchy or empire was lessened.  The greater the freedom the more vigorous the capitalist society.  The early experiments in capitalism were quite different than what we would recognize.  Under the Tzar there was a capitalism but it was based on favoritism and royal dispensation more than merit or worth of services or products offered.  The British used Mercantilism for quite some time to direct and control capitalist enterprise.   The capitalists had to conform to the needs of the state and its favorites more often than not regardless of whether the business made sense in the market place.  

The US has had the most productive and adaptive of the capitalist systems in the world.  It has been filled with abuses and downturns and dislocation throughout our history but over the long haul has served us extremely well.  For every Bernie Madoff we’ve had an Alexander Graham Bell, for every Enron there has been a Microsoft or Apple, for every downturn we’ve had an era of enormous growth.  It was bad in the ’30’s but great in the ’50’s, rough in the ’70’s but splendid in the ’80’s.  We should take care not to kill that golden goose.  The more freedoms the more capitalism and it has been ever thus.  If our capitalism is reduced you can be assured so will our freedoms. 

I recommond some reading for you.  Fernand Braudel wrote a triology about economic development.  The books are: Structures of Everyday Life; Wheels of Commerce and Perspective of the World.  Be advised he is left wing.  But the works do examine economic life going back for centuries and the facts are of great interest.  He does get on his socialist high horse.  He was a very bright fellow.  Of course he wrote the last of them before the ’80’s and was predicting the complete demise of the capitalist system.  It is always good to review a different way of thinking.  His history is quite good, his analysis of what events and facts mean are something else again.  No doubt if he was around today he would be one of the talking heads on CNN telling everyone that capitalism is finished.  He was an admirer of the socialist agenda even in spite of the abuses of the Soviets.  He thought there would be a kinder and gentler socialism even though he supported the general concept of the ruling party elite being in charge of everyone’s life.  Funny how those who disparage capitalism also always believe they know what is best for everyone and are willing to impose their view with the force of law.

Many smart people have written off capitalism before.  Smart doesn’t mean you are always right and certainly doesn’t mean you are decent or honorable–I offer Adolph Hitler and rest my case.

I see that there is finally some talk about putting guards on the ships passing the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast.  I urged several weeks ago to revive the Armed Guard navy force from WWII to do just that.  It w0uld work and be very economical.   I would give the Armed Guard the same rules of engagement as in any other war–if it looked like a duck, quacked like a duck and smelled like a duck then open fire.  You could hail the vessel but it must respond or that lack of response would be considered hostile intent.  If it really was an innocent fishing boat then that is truly collateral damage.  Real fisherman would have no hesitancy in responding and identifying themselves. 

Read more at www.olcrany.wordpress.com

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“Victimhood” is as old as mankind

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.

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Government, the good dog and the bad dog

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.

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