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Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Social Compact Unveiled

San Diego – When the 2008 presidential race seemed to be getting down to three candidates, Hillary Clinton, John Mc Cain, and Barrack Obama, I wrote a long piece, now in my writing collection on the web site, giving my analysis of those three.   It is online so you can verify what I am about to say.  (And no, as you can read there, I did not favorably review McCain and did not want him to be President.  Unfortunately I did not want any of the others, either…)

I wrote there, before it was the popular mantra of the talk radio circuit, that Obama was the best orator and the smoothest talker, but at heart he was an unrepentant socialist , a follower of so-called “Black Theology,” a glossed-over hard-bitten Chicago Pol who played go-for-the throat hard-ball politics, and basically had not a shred of serious leadership experience.

Finally, in the past weeks, in two addresses, King Barrack drew back the curtain to reveal for all who would listen, what he really is all about.  In an address to trot out his so-called budget, he invited the author of the competing budget to attend and sit in the front row and then proceeded to spend zero time defining the specifics of his own plan but considerable time excoriating the plan and intention of the man he invited to attend.

This was a blatant attempt at public humiliation that good old Richard Daley the elder would have enjoyed.  He basically accused Paul Ryan of wanting to kill old people and abandon children with various disorders.  It was cold, calculated, class-less, mean-spirited and done with an attitude and body language dripping with arrogance and totally dismissive of the opposition.  It displayed less than zero class.

Then, in the second speech, he uttered the phrase that tells us to what political philosophy he really adheres: that phrase was “The Social Compact.”  That is a very specific political phrase and concept; indeed it was that iconic phrase first employed by Jean Jacque Rousseau that gave the name to what we modernly call “socialism.” The “Social Compact” was essentially a contract, sometimes implied, sometimes written between the government and the public in which the people give up some or all of their personal freedoms in exchange for the protection of the government.  Sometimes it is legitimate protection in the forms of national defense.  But historically it has ranged the gamut from that legitimate need all the way down to protection from having to expend effort to care for one’s self or take responsibility for one’s choices.

Rousseau and William Godwin (father of Mary Shelley the author of “Frankenstein”) were the founding writers of the line of thought that has since threaded together Engles, Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, and slightly morphed itself, in order to be more palatable to American sensitivities, into modern progressive liberalism.  But as the sayings go, “A rose any other name…” or the more pithy, “If it walks like a duck… etc.”  A name change does not equal a change in core philosophy or intent.  And what we seem to have come down to is a highly charged and vitriolic contest between two opposing political philosophies more easily labeled as “individualism” verus “collectivism.”  And at the core of collectivist thinking is the idea of the social compact.

Let’s start with some widely accepted definitions for the various core political philosophies and approaches involved as they have played out over the years.  I have a simple mind so I will try to make these truly complex issues as straight forward as possible.  Too often, clever obfuscation is used to mask the true intentions of political types so let’s just cut to the chase in some simple laymen’s language.

Note, however, that the size of the social entity is not an issue: it could be a village, a tribe, a city-state, or a nation-state.  It is also important to understand there is a major difference between the political system (how leaders are chosen and the relationship of the people per se to each other, their government, and their laws) and the economic system (the ownership of the means of production and distribution).  While some economic systems seem inherently to evolve into certain political systems and vice versa as being the most optimal match, they still are two very different things.  Here we are talking primarily about economic systems though it is sometimes helpful to relate that to typically adopted political systems.

OK, here are some simplified definitions for purposes of discussion.

Socialism.  Following the original dictum of “From each according to his ability and to each according to his work” this sounds at first reading a lot like Capitalism.  But there is an important difference.  In a socialist society, the government controls the means of production and distribution.  It may allow private or semi-private ownership but the leadership of enterprise is under government control.  Government makes the rules and policies to which the businesses must adhere “for the common or social good.”

As the foundational philosophy for several other political systems, it is built squarely upon Rousseau’s famous “Social Compact.”  The government’s political system itself can be an autocratic form with a dictator or emperor, or it can have the façade of democracy where the people elect the current front man for the government who then appoints, outside of the electorate’s reach or parliamentary/congressional oversight, his “advisors” and chief governmental managers.  Interestingly, although there are some examples where the political system appears to be a democracy or republic, it seems more often to naturally degenerate into to being the home of so-called “elected” dictators where the winner is reported as receiving 90% or more of the vote and the losers generally are arrested or disappear.

European countries, and especially Scandinavian countries currently employ a sort of semi-benign socialism where the public, in exchange for huge chunks of their earnings, are pretty much taken care of from cradle to grave.  But we are seeing now throughout the European Union that, once again, and consistent with the complete history of political systems, such a system has fallen prey to Benjamin Franklin’s fear of the imminent danger of allowing the public to realize they can control and demand the size of the trough at which it feeds.  Their public has demanded and received far more “protection” from even frivolous wants than even their burdensome taxes can pay for.  Michael Moore to the contrary, neither a family, a business, or a country can long sustain an economic situation where you are spending more than you can take in.   As Margaret Thatcher observed, the problem with socialism is that in every case, pretty soon the government has run out of other people’s money in their attempt to legislate some form of cosmic “justice.”

The problem boils down to this: in order to carry the non-productive people but without providing motivation for the additional productivity, you have to do it by essentially extorting increasing tribute from the productive.  And, from an individual’s perspective, as motivation for productivity declines since, in essence, it starts to cost you to raise your productivity, and quickly it costs increasingly more than you can realize from your own efforts. That deficit is then enlarged as, inevitably, productivity itself starts to fall.

The demographics sooner or later have always created a collection of people where the non-productive so outnumber the productive that the productive can no longer (or WILL no longer) carry the load economically and the system collapses under its own weight.  That is, of course, not how it works on paper or in the minds of the founding social compact thinkers who assumed man was such an inherently benign and good creature that if merely given the chance would rise to the occasion and delight in expending their efforts for the common good.  it is not how it is supposed to work in the minds of college professors who preach its virtues to their eager students.  Of course at the same time there remains the underlying concept that “the people” were too stupid to know inherently what was good for them and so needed the guidance of a few enlightened leaders to show the way.  And no one advocating socialist concepts then or now seems to see what should be the obvious contradiction in those positions.

Communism and Marxism.  A slight modification of the dictum from above turns original socialism into communism where now it is “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.” This flows purely from the Marxian view of history as the story of unending class warfare and his (and his followers’) attempt to completely level the playing field by eliminating all class distinction.  In theory the “state” is the collection of the people; they are indistinguishable in terms of classes.  All means of production and distribution are “owned” collectively by the people.  In practice, the variation in abilities that the system disavows allows an untitled class to take control and rule “in the name of the people.”

Here the “government,” which is claimed to be a simple extension of the people, owns and directs both the means of production and the distribution of products claiming that it is actually the people who own it and all share alike.  A half step away from anarchism, it runs into the problem of having no chain of leadership and management: it is a ship in which every sailor mans his own tiller.  That is, of course, unworkable chaos so some entity must arise to “guide” the people.  Theoretically a form of pure democracy would be used to choose the leadership from amongst the body of citizens.  Then, also in theory, as it evolves, people are allocated tasks as determined by the democratically elected “government” and all are paid alike regardless of effort or productivity and provided “needs” as determined by the same government.  In the end, as Marx’s utopian dream unfolds the [political system ultimately becomes one of pure democracy in an idyllic environment.

The political system, in reality however, tends to quickly overwhelm the economic system as a few clever or powerful individuals determine quickly (a) they have no interest in being one of the masses, and (b) that they can manipulate the citizenry, one way or the other, who mostly just want to be taken care of.  Then a wonderful symbiosis takes place — the more the people want, the more they are dependent on the government, increasingly in the hands of these clever folks, and the more malleable the people become in the hands of their providers.

So, thus far, in every case where this system has been put in place, the “equal” ruling group somehow end up “more equal” with lots of money and perks and the remainder “all equal” people end up on subsistence and starvation level incomes, are purged if they dissent (so much for the people being important) and the human spirit goes into deep decline.  A single allowed “party” runs everything and leaders are selected internally from within the ranks of higher ranking party members though that selection might be rubber stamped by a highly rigged and controlled “election.”

Fascism.  This is a form of socialism based not, however, on some concept of equality, but on concepts of strength in which an open dictator is installed (with or without pretense of elections and often by a coup).  It is the modern version of Themistocles’s concept of “Might makes Right” masked at first with the pretense of some public input.  It combines the worst of socialism and communism by managing to almost re-create a feudal political system of patronage and corruption based on a dictatorship.

Fascist governments control the means of production and distribution of product as suits its needs but leave it generally to the real owners to decide the matter of “pay” for workers.  Here the social compact degenerates into the government promising to control the system and quash dissent and the people promising the shut up and work to support the state.  It is frequently fiercely nationalistic seeing its own people as inherently superior to all others so that fire-breathing oratory extolling national/social identity is often used to mask or excuse excesses to the detriment of those seen as undesirable; a status defined and institutionalized by the state.

Ironically too, in the end it becomes nearly indistinguishable in form or action from communism except that private “ownership” is allowed.  The most famous Fascist state, Hitler’s Germany, run by the National Socialist Party, solved many economic issues of production often by the expedient of using slave labor from groups seen as “inferior” thereby allowing some industrialists, like Krupp, to become very wealthy.  The greatest irony is that Fascist thinking is pretty much vehemently ANTI everything else: capitalism, socialism, communism, you name it and they are against it.

All of these are forms of a collective state flowing from the concept of a social compact in which the government, however established, was seen as the embodiment of enlightened leaders or “rulers” who, by whatever means, were the holders of sufficient wisdom to know best how to provide for the people who desperately needed such guidance.  And the people themselves who, by nature, ought to be thrilled by having the horrors of personal decision making removed from them and having the inequities flowing from varying degrees of strength, talent, and motivation removed so that the least of the people received the same as the highest of the people (excepting, of course, the enlightened rulers themselves) would be served in the most just way possible, generally suffered as the actual result was not the elevation of the masses but the destruction of the upper classes and with them the very people who could have hired and paid the masses for their labor.   And anyone who thinks government thusly run is efficient or good at running the business or industrial arm of a country need look no further than the old Soviet Union and talk to any – I mean ANY – of the businessmen who went there after the fall to try to help rebuild that country.

Failures galore notwithstanding, following this train of thought, it does indeed “take a village” to make life itself work well.  The community or state, in some ways reflective of Confucianism, is far more important than the individual which, in practice, is an ironic contradiction to the idea of economic and class egalitarianism where everyone on an economic level is seen as equal but on a political level is seen as occupying very different levels of competence and involvement.   At least Confucius entertained no such contradictions: to him, openly, the state was all important… period.  With that as a precursor, it makes sense that the Chinese version of Marxist Communism was so brutal to the people.

In pure communism the ideal of a single class was taken so pervasive as to even eliminate rank distinctions in the early red army of the soviets which, of course, led to disasters on the battlefield against Hitler’s army as no one could lead and the political leaders were so far removed from the battle or military experience as to be unable to form good tactical planning.  But even in this experiment with a class free society there were indeed imposed classes.  The political class and the political watchdogs were certainly far above the common people and it would be hard to argue that Stalin, for example, lived on the same economic plateau as the masses.   He too brutalized the masses but not because the doctrine encouraged it; it just turned a blind eye to it out of fear of him.

Stateism.  This term defines a trans-political system concept in which The State itself is the most important thing.  It is a modern version of Confucius’s thinking but can be applied to nearly any political system.  It does however degrade the public into being simply the grease in the cogs of the State which exists largely for itself and the power of its leaders and continues because it has turned the public into such a state of dependency that they need the State not just to prosper but, ultimately, just to survive.  It is the “It Takes a Village” concept on steroids.

The systems based more on the power and freedom of the individual flow from the writings of Locke, Burke, and Jefferson.  And they are not based on individual enlightenment as the basis for leadership but on reliance upon systemic wisdom gained by cultural experience and historical awareness.

Capitalism.  Capitalism, or “Free-Marketism,” is the economic and social expression of Darwinism.   Purely speaking, there is no official “Social Compact” in the same sense as it is meant by the socialist philosophers.  In capitalism each and every individual is free to pursue, to the best of their abilities and resources, any goal they wish and are willing to work toward.  The “freedom to fail” is a prime motivator because a safety net, if it exists at all, is in place only for those who cannot, CANNOT for reasons of mental or physical health or being blindsided by some calamity, take care of themselves.  There is no safety net for those who simply WILL not involve themselves.

To work, the system requires not just self-interest, but enlightened self-interest.  Enlightened self-interest comes from the ability to see the long picture and to realize that one’s own self interest is most often tied into the interest of other people and entities apart from one’s own narrow environment.  The enlightened capitalist understands clearly that their best interest is served when the country’s interests are served and country-wide growth and prosperity is attained.

But when the “enlightened” part slips away, and short-term, bottom-line thinking and avarice takes over, then the approach descends rapidly into the next category.

Materialism or “Crony Capitalism.”  This is a truly unholy mixture of Capitalism infused with some form of Socialism, often even Fascism.  It mixes the political and economic systems so that they both serve the needs of a few in power.  Akin to the concept of an Oligarchy, greedy prime movers behind the scene manipulate players in all parties to keep the people stirred up and essentially distracted so that economically they can proceed to rape the system.

It is essential to learn something from Macciavelli; money does not buy power, money is a by-product OF power.  And Power is achieved through dependencies.  Having money does not inherently give me power over you; but making you dependent on me most certainly does.  If I hold the keys to your future happiness and perhaps even survival then I have enormous power over you and from that will flow the money… from you to keep me happy and providing the things you want and need since you can no longer acquire them for yourself.  This paragraph, may be the most important one in this post since it contains the keys you need to know to evaluate the approaches being sold to you by politicians.

It is the ultimate in corruption because it is essentially covert in nature behind a mask of “serving the common good,” often even a mask of some form of benign socialism.  It is a system which, in virtually every case, has taken the worst from all other systems and put it into effect behind the curtain driven totally by personal greed unburdened by any thoughts of how that will effect the larger picture and, in the end, even themselves.

None of these systems, except perhaps Fascism and Materialism, is inherently evil.  It is just that some lend themselves to degradation more easily than others.  And some correspond more closely to the realities of human nature and how we, as a species, operate, think, and are fulfilled in our “pursuit of happiness.”  What separates them, in my opinion, is not degrees of inherent malice, it is in the degree to which they truly recognize and deal with human nature as it is not as we might wish it to be.

All of them were attempts by early humans to form a system by which humans, deciding the pre-agrarian, pre-currency “hunter-gatherer” approach (where, interestingly, a more collective economic approach is often far more efficient) has far less to recommend itself to them than the easier life of a surplus-based agrarian or industrial society, define rules of social and civil interaction calculated to allow that group of individuals to survive and flourish.  But as the needs of the group change along with its size, from family to band to tribe to village to city-state to nation-state, so too does the most efficient system to oversee their relations to one another economically and politically.

The social compact, derived in no small part to the (then) new studies of anthropology and sociology busily analyzing the working of primitive societies, which apart from the occasional forays into butchering the neighbors in a series of endless “pay back” raids was seen then as idyllic existences where the wisdom of these “noble savages” could be a beacon for us moderns who had forgotten how to “get along.”  No we hadn’t… we had moved beyond it on nearly every level and now especially since we had so refined the machinery of war and death-dealing while we were refining the machinery of benign production, needed to break away from that and learn something very different.   But that meant one had to admit we were not angelic in our natures but rather the apex predators our big brains and adaptability had made us.  We did not have the longest claws or the sharpest teeth but we could make instruments that rendered fang and claw nearly irrelevant and we had not had the evolutionary time to alter our inquisitive, acquisitive, predacious nature.  What was needed was a system to harness it into something less socially disruptive, harmful, and counter productive than we naturally gravitated to.  Left to our own devices we quickly became materialists as defined above.  Excesses of that led to regulations but the regulations were based not on enlightened thinking but upon corruption of one sort or another and so were unevenly applied with the result that the excesses now targeted the weaker portions of the group.

And now we are back at a point where we are re-examining what to do as a country and in some places, as a world community.  It does not appear to me that either side of that debate has learned even the slightest amount of knowledge from history ancient or recent.  One side, profiting mightily from it, merely wants to retain the materialist status quo without giving a moment’s thoughts to the long term disasters to which that avoidance of the “enlightened” long view will lead.  And the other side, so scandalized by the excesses of the materialists, is just sure that we can escape all of the lessons of history and return to that social compact model and this time make it work.

I think King Barrack’s policies will lead to catastrophe, but then I also think a continuation of the status quo will do the same thing.  I believe that for one brief shining moment in the history of human social engineering, for whatever reasons, the giants among the founding fathers of our country got it right.  Yes there were some dissenters who brilliantly presented their views: Hamilton coming quickly to mind.  But in the end, the minds and debates of Madison, Adams, Jefferson, etc. created a truly workable civil system that with but minor tweaking is as viable and workable today as it was then because it, of all systems tried, what those gentlemen created has best accommodated human nature and turned it toward the building of a culture and country that, until we started to lose our way early in the last century, stood as an example and beacon to the rest of the world of “how to do it.”

The great Obakarama has no clue.  But, alas, it appears that neither do any of his opponents.  I think we are in grave trouble as a nation and a culture.  The difference is that King Barrack has a vision and the others do not.  I am opposed to his vision and especially to the problem that the only way to bring it about is to tear down the current system since it will not readily evolve into what he sees as the ideal place.  But i also know you cannot beat a vision without having one of your own.  We have no modern Jeffersons or Madisons or Adamses and many seek to return to a bit of wishful thinking about a past that never existed.

Such views are doomed to failure.  And with that clash i think we have every potential of bringing down this country once and for all.  It scares me to death.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Legislating Immorality

San Diego – I rarely check my Facebook page.  I was talked into getting one by a colleague but I have to be honest, it is so often far too infantile for me to bear.  I honestly have no interest in whether “friends” of mine I actually barely know if at all are enjoying sushi at the fave place or if the latest BFF is so cool.  I think most of what I see depicts individuals truly disconnected emotionally, trying to replace personal intimacy (and no, I do not mean sex) with cyber pleadings for attention and are generally, desperately in need of a life.  If it were not for a few really creative people who espouse some fascinating perspectives I would simply cancel it.

But today I was greeted by the posting of a link to the story about an 11-year-old girl who was gang raped (all of it captured on a cell phone video so I refuse to prefix this documented crime as “alleged”) by a group of men.  According to AP,

“The authorities have arrested 18 people, including two of Cleveland’s [DK: Cleveland, Texas not far from Houston] star high school athletes and adults with criminal records.” 

What makes this of special interest is that the community activists from which those men came are all blaming the young girl for the rape.  And no, this is not an Islamic group where you would expect that sort of idiocy.   Generally this sorry collection of offenders is from a group that normally blames bigotry, of which they themselves are incapable, for their woes.  But there are no possible ways to tie this act to current or past race-based inequities real or imagined so the only one left to blame, since as members of an entitled victim class they could not possibly be responsible themselves, is the little girl.  And to their shame they went for it.

They said she looked older.  Older than 11?  So, did she look 20 or even 18?  And even if she did, does anyone in any group having some remaining shred of morals think it is OK for 18 high-schoolers and adults to rape a young girl… or even an adult woman?  Apparently they do; not just them but their own community of enablers who are now joining ranks to protect them from the evil ‘man’ who wants to hold them accountable.

First some disclosure: I believe the abuse of a child should be a capital offense.  That abuse takes away not just their childhood but too often takes away their chance at a meaningful loving life.  The perpetrators have not taken life, per se, but they have taken away, in all too many cases, the possibility of being able to fully enjoy and participate in the life they have left.  I have no problem with seeing that act, proven to a scientific certainty, being cause for forfeiting the life of the perpetrator; not as payment, that is a debt that cannot ever be repaid, but as simple punishment and an object lesson that we are done accepting and facilitating this sort of behavior.

Of course that will never happen.  We have grown into a generally indolent and in some ways sociopathic society that wants quite the opposite: we want a life in which choices and behaviors are free of consequences and concepts of Right and Wrong are tossed aside.   We seem to want a life where we can endlessly repeat that we are sorry as a ticket to escape accountability and preferable to not even have to acknowledge that we have done anything wrong at all.  And we are facilitating that desire legislatively by increasingly providing legal cover if not outright excuse for perpetrators of all sorts.

I hear all of the time there is nothing we can do since we cannot legislate morality. Really?  Morality is nothing more than a paradigm that assigns accountability for behavior. And the more we legislate away that accountability then clearly, the more we legislate IM-morality into existence and common behavior.  And we have gone out of our way to legislatively remove accountability for behavior and made it harder and harder for the victims while making it easier and easier for the perpetrator to elude responsibility.

This is one big reason why, after Law School I did not go on to practice law.  I never came to believe that as a defense attorney it was my job to get the guilty acquitted, only to help guarantee a fair trial.  Unfortunately that attitude is a quick way to go broke as an attorney, so I returned to image making as at least a less ethically slimy way to go broke.

The law says that as an individual I have a right to protect myself from the “reasonable anticipation” of harm.  I cannot take that so far as to become the aggressor myself but short of that I can do whatever it takes to protect myself.  I would contend that a society, as a collection of individuals, has an equivalent right to protect itself.  Our society was established based on a set of governing principles, our behavioral “paradigm,” and we have a right to defend it against any who would seek to tear it down.  It does not take some religious notion imposed on the paradigm for most of us to understand that gang raping an 11-year-old girl is not something that should be condoned… for any reason; or that it was somehow her own fault.

Even had she acted seductively, we have decreed that children under a certain age cannot understand the consequences of their actions and are not accountable.  This is supported by law and by study after study in psychology.  Only in the Muslim world are men viewed as so inherently weak of character and women so inherently evil that the women must be seen as the source of all deviancy and the ones to punish while the men go free since they are, collectively, merely pawns in the hands of the evil seductresses.

That was not our way or our view at least as we set this society in motion.  We created, rather, a society and culture in which the work ethic was highly prized, in which individual freedom and integrity was equally valued.  We so trusted our collective integrity that we established laws where we were bound by a simple oath to tell the truth and neither torture nor even the benefits of chemical inducement were used to determine whether or not we were telling the truth.  We could not even be forced to lie to save ourselves since our Constitution decreed that we could not be forced to be a witness against ourselves to avoid us having to lie about it.

But little by little that paradigm has been chipped away as more and more people, and sadly enough often the lawmakers themselves, seek to find ways to avoid accountability and responsibility for behavior that would be rightly seen as abhorrent and possibly seditious.  Seditious?  Of course.

When you act in such a way as to damage the foundations of the society and its paradigms then you are slowly destroying the foundations of that society.  If you honestly believe the founding paradigms need to be changed then the Constitution itself shows you the way to do it; and it has been done a number of times over the years.  It took us a pathetically long time to recognize the value and power of women and recognize that in the Constitution via an amendment, yet even before that time we may not have allowed them to vote but we never, as a society, thought it was OK to rape young girls.    Until the Constitution is changed, so long as those foundational laws stand, then ignoring them or spinning them to one’s own ends is destructive to them and therefore to the society formed and defined by them.  And that is clearly “subversion of the Constitution” which is accepted as a form of sedition.

I do believe in freedom but follow the old law school dictum that you (all of you) have an absolute right to swing your arms; but that right stops at the end of someone else’s nose including mine.  Following that concept, I believe that people have a right to believe anything they want and to act on it but that right stops when it starts to collide with our society’s nose.  I think they have an absolute right to search out places — other places — that share their beliefs and go there to be among philosophical friends and live with the consequences of those philosophies.  But they have no right to impose those views on this society until or if we decide, as proscribed in the Constitution, to change the rules.  We have no legal or ethical mandate to allow someone else’s society to punch our society in the nose.

And to the point of the news report that started this line of thinking, I believe the act of this community to gather around and support the perpetrators of this heinous, and to me capital crime, clearly demonstrates that at least in some communities, our attempts to legislate immorality have worked extremely well.  We have come to a point where we have allowed groups to believe they have no personal responsibility for even the most outrageous and egregious of behavior and that fault for all inappropriate behavior by members of that group must, by definition, be found elsewhere.

I beg to differ.  No, wait, there is no reason to beg here; I insist on differing and so should anyone claiming even a loose connection with ethics and morality.  I believe life is about choices… choices and consequences.

Any individual or collection of individuals that can justify the acts of adult men choosing to be involved in the rape of an 11-year-old girl — or ANY girl for that matter — have no place in my society.  Their attitude, and of that anyone who supports them, is not diversity, it is despicable depravity. Excusing that attitude is not enlightened tolerance; it is craven cowardice.  So much for “the land of the brave.”

In my opinion, if you honestly believe that ANY adult male should have done anything other than try to protect that girl then I do not wish to share breathing air with you and think you need to be exiled to some middle eastern country where they seem to share your perverted outlook, but in one way or another be removed from our society and from the protection of its laws.  If you cannot protect a young girl, much less participate in her assault, then I think you deserve ZERO protection under our laws and should be declared, as in the ancient laws, OUT LAW, i.e. outside the law’s protection and fair game.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Government Wouldn’t Lie to Us… Would They?

San Diego – This might be a long one so get a cup of coffee and setle in a bit…

I’ve been asked,  since I claim only to be an image maker, where I come up with the ideas and conclusions I espouse in this blog and in personal discussions.  How is it that nearly all of my colleagues in the arts and in education, are almost diametrically opposed to me.  It’s a fair question.  I cannot speak for my colleagues and how they arrive at their own conclusions, but in my case I have experience in the real world that most of them lack and I try to follow the advice of my old philosophy instructors in college now summed up nicely by John Mauldin, a major financial figure in this regard when he explained his willingness to quote from those with whom he disagreed by saying,

“… if we only read what we already think, then how can we learn? It is only when your ideas are challenged and you seek (honestly) to determine why the other guy is wrong and you are right, that you can either become more firm in your beliefs or change [as the facts dictate].”

So I try to keep abreast of as many perspectives as possible, assuming hyperbole from each according to their obvious biases, and seek first to find any common ground, which is nearly always correct, or to find the dots that need to be connected whether the piece i am examining has done so or not.  In addition to online versions of the NY Times and Wall Street Journal, I check out the online English versions of La Monde (French), Der Spiegel (German), Daily Mail (England), and even Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.  I read the political drivel from all sides ranging from NewsMax to Huffington to Politico.  I also devour intelligence reports, especially from Stratfor, financial ideas from John Mauldin’s “Outside the Box” newsletter which as noted above presents ideas all across the spectrum, and, when I am home to do it, try to scan the blather from MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.

Unlike mainstream channels those sources do not seek to hide their biases so you can hear ideas “from the horse’s mouth” so to speak and not hear just an edited version of it.  And finally, my personal library contains many of the foundational documents of the various political philosophies and also the texts driving theocracies such as the Koran/Qur’an or however one choses to Anglicize the spelling.  I have read all of them, sometimes several times.

Of course I cannot read everything out there so I search quickly for articles in the areas that interest me: geopolitics, oil, security and terrorism, and sovereign finances for the most part.  Obviously I cannot do it every day since I have a real job that is, itself, taking more than normal times.  But I can spend a few minutes here and there, cut and paste parts i think are salient into a file and then at my leisure on weekends, such as now, try to make sense of it.

Is it possible I have missed something important?  Of course. But I would argue that whatever else I may be or may not be, I am not completely uninformed as to the events transpiring around us in this most dangerous (in my opinion) of times.

I would dearly love to posit that I think the greatest danger to our country, society, and culture is, as it used to be, an external threat and those certainly do exist in abundance.  But I have come regretfully to the opinion that our greatest threat is internal and that we are, as one financial pundit phrased it, “…trending toward unwitting self-destruction.” Those external dangers, while all very real, poised, and waiting their opportunity, would never have that opportunity if somehow we did not, through internal idiocy or malice, open the gates for them and haul in the modern versions of the Trojan Horse.

You really should re-read (I’m making a possibly invalid assumption about the quality of your education here) the section of the Iliad describing what the Greeks did to entice the Trojans to accept and embrace the vehicle of their own destruction, and then look for the parallels to our current situations.  The only difference is the “Greeks” in this case are not outside the walls, they are already in the walls and in the palace.

Sometimes I feel like Cassandra in this regard.  (Oh, all right, for God’s sake, I’ll just tell you. She was the Trojan oracle who spurned Apollo and was cursed to always tell the truth and never be believed.  She warned Priam and Hector about the Greek trick but was not believed.  No wonder we are such “fair game.”)

So here is my “Cassandra Report.”  Our economic situation is dire and getting worse and if we do not turn this ship around, quit dealing with symptoms and short-term political feel good “solutions” while carefully avoiding addressing the cause of it because the solution is viewed as political suicide and painful in the extreme, we will see our great culture self destruct and open the gates for all of the dangers out there who seek to destroy us and see us join them as just another third world country that is just a bit bigger and see the Orient once again take its place as the major world power.

Whatever horrid pain we will have to face to solve the current problems because we waited too long, are nothing compared to the pain we will all suffer if we do nothing.  And the solution begins by admitting the problem.  You cannot — CANNOT — solve a problem that you will not acknowledge exists.  Period.  And we have a huge problem that in the last few years has been exacerbated to an extreme degree and is now being covered up with a combination of lies, band-aids, and panaceas in the form of misdirections.  We hear each side blaming the other for setting this in motion when the truth is both had their hands in it and there are no innocent parties here.  Good Lord, get over it.  The point, in the end, at least at this desperate point, is NOT who started it… history can sort that out later.  The point is what are we going to do about it and it appears to me our deadly partisanship will prevent this group of so-called law makers from really doing anything.

The problem that the problem is causing is that it is generating such angst that we are losing our ability to keep an eye on the powder kegs in the middle east where the fuse is already lit and inching toward disaster.

(As a teaser, when the current king of Saudi Arabia dies or is killed and if Khamenie is still the high Ayatollah in Iran, keep your heads down because all Hell is likely to break out led by Iran.  Ah but that is a story for another day because it really will not make any difference to us if we are, by then, at a place we are sure to be if we do not reverse course and quickly.)

So what is about to — or at least likely to happen on the economic front?  Well, here is a quote from David Gallard of the Casey Report, a widely read financial newsletter whose conclusions have rarely been wrong:

“The Fed has been extremely supportive of the U.S. government’s insane spending, polluting its own balance sheet by buying up toxic loans by the hundreds of billions and by pumping enormous quantities of cash into the money supply.

” …(you) don’t have to look very hard to understand why we have seen some small recovery in the economy, much of which has been driven by the financial sector that has been the recipient of so much largess – it was bought and paid for by the government, working hand in glove with the Fed.”

Why is this a problem?  Because to support a flawed economic policy, it has resulted in what even Keynes himself feared, a “debauchery” of the currency.  The monetization of the debt by printing money and loaning it to one’s self via purchasing your own bonds, called, euphemistically,  “Quantitative Easing” or QE, is (a) inflationary on the face of it because it debauches (debases) the value of the currency and (b) should it stop after it is depended upon and fundamental problems are not solved, will generate, in, at most (if history remains true) a couple of years, a secondary market collapse because the whole scheme was not used to address the real problems but to prop up the parties complicit with government policy in fomenting the collapse in the first place.

And it appears highly likely that as they approach the end of QE2, the Fed, ever terrified of inflation even through their own filters, will not immediately go to QE3 but will stop to assess the success of the plan.  Success or failure, it will be labeled as a success because it is what King Barrack and Count Bernanke wanted to happen. Given a little time though, the incredible problems impacting our economy will resurface so that the economy will be back in the tank in a way impossible to cover up.

At that time the Fed will be forced to do some further monetization, though they will likely try to pretend it is something else other than more quantitative easing when they describe and label it.  It is all they know to do and have little choice since the politicians at ALL levels are refusing to address the core issues are looking to them to somehow, magically fix it so they (the politicians) can claim innocence of the pain and thereby keep their jobs.  And it appears that the public, on both sides of the aisle, is dumb enough to buy into it so long as they keep being promised protection from their own pain.

I believe however that QE1, 2 or 3 or 4 or 28, by any name or label, are all stop-gap measures that in the end will backfire badly and the inflation feared will come at us like an onrushing freight train and make Japan’s experience look like a Sunday School picnic… unless we change course.  They are treating the symptoms not the cause.  It is like putting a bandaid on a festering wound… it hides the reality for a while until the gangrene sets in to force some really ugly decisions that could have been avoided early on.

So why do I believe that?  I believe it because i believe we are being lied to on so many levels that it is nearly pathological in occurrence.  And that if you look beneath the curtain of this well-woven fabrication all of the signs of disaster are there to be seen clearly.  Here again is David Gallard,

“…the problems that made the economy stumble in 2008 have not been solved. As I said before, most have gotten worse. Have the impossible levels of sovereign debt and trillions in unresolved bad mortgages embedded in the balance sheets of Fannie, Freddie, the Zombie Banks and even the Fed been resolved? Hardly.

“Is there any real sign coming out of Washington that the deficits will be substantively tackled? You don’t have to be as active a skeptic as I to understand that the deepest spending cuts being discussed don’t even scratch the surface of the $1.5 to $2 trillion deficit. As for the $60 trillion or so in debt and unfunded obligations, forget about it.

“The U.S. government and the governments of most large nation-states are fundamentally bankrupt. In time, they will have to default on their obligations. While there will be some overt defaults, I expect most of them to follow the path of least resistance, which is to try to inflate the problem away.”

The truly worrisome deficit is the deficit of government accountability.  Here’s another dot for you to connect.  On February 10th CNNMoney reported the IMF issued a report encouraging replacing the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.   China has said, “we don’t want to make any more foreign exchange reserve of any paper currency, because all the paper currencies are government debt currencies.” In southern China, the “BRICS” group, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, recently met in a sort of mini-summit and agreed “to transact all of their mutual trade and investment in their own currencies” effectively minimizing the need, at least in the short-term, for a global reserve currency and because of, in their view, the volatility of the US Dollar under current fiscal policies.  They didn’t replace the dollar as reserve, they sidestepped it.  But the result is the same.

In a wonderful bit of political misdirection the Administration’s pet sycophantic “economists” have rushed to assure us that the dollar is not in danger of collapsing.  I think they are probably right.  But that is not the issue: it does not have to collapse per se to have a catastrophic effect on our economy.  All it has to do is devalue significantly due to inflation and the spiral is on.  But we are also assured by the anointed one that the economy is back on track and inflation is not a problem.  And if you just slightly cook the books, that is more or less true.  But to do it you have to change the rules of how such things are measured and that is precisely what has just happened.  And Bernanke assured us recently that deflation was not likely.  Duh.  But deflation is not the problem yet everyone read into that, “Hey the Fed said there was no problem so relax; it’s all under control.”  That is the equivalent of the lookout on the Titanic telling everyone, “No problem, we’re made of steel and that is just frozen water so there will be no problem.”

First of all, a “jobless recovery” is NOT a recovery at all.  Unemployment remains very high.  Of course if you are a blind partisan and buy into the government’s figures, it is moving steadily in the right direction. But the government has never entertained any reservations about juggling actual figures to suit itself. One telling statistic they avoid like the plague is, unfortunately, the only real way to look at it: unemployment as a percentage of the employable population, which screens out many of the government’s self-serving adjustments to its official figures. Looked at that way, you can see that unemployment is continuing to rise alarmingly, even though the government is reporting that it’s falling markedly.  What is the basis of their declaration: the number of people applying for unemployment.  Period.

Plans to help solve problems (especially as in California) by raising productivity, which means raising the tax base, are simply pie in the sky when, in fact, the tax base of employees is going down because business — you know, those nasty entities that actually hire people –are being driven to places like Texas.  Anyone willing to do the research to find the real numbers can see that both unemployment and inflation is going up. With the web at hand it is incredibly simple to do the research.  For example, just pull up a chart of the CRB (Commodities Research Bureau) Index for Commodities which tracks the prices for the real stuff required for life – and one can see it has been on a steep upwards trajectory. Inflation is very much here and alive.  As I noted a few posts before, oil is rising rapidly and with it the costs of food production so food cost is also going up.  And so is most everything else.

John Williams’s (another high level financial consultant/analyst) “Shadow Stats” chart (www.shadowstats.com) reveals that inflation is at nearly 10%, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting 2.1%.  But, and here is a really interesting kink in all of this,  even Williams’ statistics don’t report actual percentages but rather what it would be if the government reported inflation the way it used to, before it started “improving” its reporting in the 1980s. It’s still an incomplete view, because the government’s original reporting was flawed to begin with and skewed to minimizing the numbers even back then.

How can the government skew these figures? Easy, they added in Housing to the CPI (Consumer Price Index). In 2008 housing was dealt a huge blow and it will be there for a very long time, because government had (and continues to) encourage and facilitate bad decisions on the part of both lenders and borrowers. This has left trillions of dollars of bad debt hanging out there, much of it now in the government’s ledger.  So the inclusion of housing prices, which plummeted as that bubble burst, as a component of official CPI, pulls the official inflation figures down, even though those figures don’t sync up with the actual cost of living.  And et viola, a magical and instant drop in inflation numbers.

i once did work for a Fortune 100 company whose CEO made the balance sheets look wonderful by selling off core business departments of the company until there was nothing left to sell.  That company then went under, no longer exists, and to the end the stockholders, told only of the incredible “revenues” while costs dropped, kept voting for HUGE annual bonuses for him.  Hmmmmm, sounds like the government to me…

This is precisely the same approach used to indicate global warming by eliminating, from the list of gathering stations, those that are in colder areas.  And if you leave that little important bit of data out as  you are calculating the figures, they do seem quite plausible.  Ah but now we are bumping into another topic for another time. But is it possible there is a trend here?  Surely not.  Say it isn’t so… and then back that up with some hard data.  Please, go for it.

Many economists from different perspectives are predicting oil prices to continue rising.  Some blame speculators not fully understanding the difference between spot markets and normal market speculation, some blame foreign issues, and others note that in addition to those influences on oil prices, our government seems to actually be facilitating it by refusing to allow us to get at our own reserves or refine what we have in order to push its green agenda onto the backs of people who are trapped in their positions.  With inflation gobbling up large chunks of one’s paycheck, King Barrack’s laughing while telling a worker he needed to trade in his SUV for a hybrid van, is like Marie Antoinette telling the starving French who could not afford bread to “let them eat cake.”

I do hope some of you remember the French Revolution and not only what led up to it but the Reign of Terror that followed.  The next time you ‘neocons’ want to set in motion some protective law please re-read Robespierre’s letter that allowed him to set up the security apparatus that led to job security for Madame Guillotine and see if you recognize any of it.  And you far left people wake up and see the revolution that is possible when you get the people mad enough because they are feeling helpless because that is where you want them to be to justify your creation of the government village to take care of them.

People underwater with their homes and vehicles could not trade up to a hybrid vehicle even if they wanted to.   What a stupid, irresponsible response that was but it is totally revealing of the agenda and of the connection King Barrack has with real people. Telling the people here in southern California to use public transportation where a 20 minute commute by car would then take 2-3 hours — assuming it was even an option — is ridiculous and out of touch. But then so are the proponents of such ideas.

Before you can demand that change you have to build a workable system and that takes… oh wait, I’m beginning to see it now… that takes higher taxes to pay for it.

Why no, they wouldn’t lie to us… much…
.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Extremist & Draconian Math

San Diego – We all know about “New Math.”  That is the math that has left our kids without the ability to count change and depend on calculators.  But now we have Extremist Math.  Since good ol’ Chuck Shummer told his fellow Democrats to label anyone who wanted to cut spending as extremists and their ideas as Draconian that has been the obligatory label used for nearly anyone who disagrees with them.  “Draconian” is a fitting label for them to use since they also accused their opposition of coming to town to kill women and old folks.

I hear a deafening silence… “Draconian?” you ask.  Oh come on, all of you ever-so-educated and informed voters surely are so steeped in history you remember the Athenian Greek, Draco?  In 621 BC Draco was asked to codify all laws so that everyone would know them and not be able to claim ignorance or to break them unknowingly.  His code decreed death for virtually every offense.  He stated he believed death was appropriate for ANY crime and could not think of something more severe for the bigger crimes.

So lets put the Draconian objectors to the budget deal to the microscope.  it has become pretty well established that Americans. almost somewhat uniquely (and, in my opinion due in part to new math) cannot comprehend or deal with really big numbers.  A million is slightly out of grasp and a billion or more are just abstractions.  THe only way to make sense of what is really at play is to deal in percentages and bring down examples into the realm of the understandable.  That is what I tried to do when I showed that, following the math done by a friend, using the Democrats’ reasoning, my own $3,000 credit card debt could be properly dealt with by my cutting $.08 (that is eight cents) from my annual spending.

Well here is another example.  First the reality as described here in an article on the issue:

“Currently, the Federal debt amounts to $14.2 trillion. (Washington has) borrowed every penny the law allows. In fact, that’s the reason for the current war of words. If Congress won’t raise the debt ceiling, the government can’t borrow any more money. If it can’t borrow any more money, it can’t pay for all the boondoggles and giveaways that are already law. [DK: And that means that expenditures and liabilities were passed into law knowing full well they were above to so-called debt limit and now they need to hike the limit to pay for them. So much for any real debt ceiling: you just authorize the spending and then tell the people they will be devastated if they have to “cut” the programs.  Can we spell “fraud?”  Oh well, back to the quote… )

“The deficit is already scheduled to grow by $1.6 trillion this year. In other words, even if Congress can’t agree on spending one more dollar this year, we taxpayers are already on the hook for our government to fork over $1.6 trillion more than it collects in taxes.

“The deficit for February (the shortest month of the year!) was $223 billion. That was the largest single deficit of any month in our country’s history.  Let me put it another way: The same day that Republicans in the House voted to cut spending by $6 billion, our national debt jumped by $72 billion. That’s $72 billion in new deficits, every day of the week, every week of the year.”

So lets convert that all to pennies where one penny equals a trillion dollars (from an analogy first presented by Chip Wood). The debt is roughly 15,000 pennies or a pile of 300 of those red penny rolls. And the pile is growing by 72 pennies a day or about a roll and a half. (for those who have never been in business or saved their change, a penny roll/wrapper holds $.50.  Oh, I’m sorry, that is 50 pennies.

The nasty evil Draconian House wanted to cut 10 pennies from that pile of 15,000 pennies
but had to settle on less. The Dems were willing to cut 4.5 pennies and in the end settled on about 6 pennies or 1/16 of the amount of NEW debt being racked up that very day.  Draconian?  Extreme?  And in following our analogy how do the liberal folks tell the tale?  They say those nasty Draconians are trying to cut all of ten pennies at once (can you even imagine?) which will be disastrous because we only increased the deficit this month by 1.44 rolls. And the sychophants readily buy into that bit of verbal mis-direction.  The nasty conservatives want to cut 10 but only increased 1.44.  Uh, but wait a minute… the cut is 10 pennies but 1.44 rolls is 72 pennies… you have to not let them keep you from reading the fine print.

When it looked like they actually might lose the fight Dems accelerated the misdirection approach and added an old staple technique… they lied.  they lied by also started telling people that if the government shut down then soldiers in the field (“America’s flowering youth now in harm’s way”) would not be paid.  That is a lie.  The Law is clear that active duty military are considered essential personnel and exempt from furlough or layoff without pay.  And who else is excempt?   I know this will surprise you.  Congress and all of their staffs are also exempt.  Reality is not kind to the liberal position but they can happily (for them) rely on voter ignorance and short-term memory and their fear of nasty labels.

King Barrack loves telling the world he inherited a Trillion Dollar deficit, as if that somehow excuses boosting it to the current levels.  But it is a lie.  $800 billion of that deficit was the one time, never to be repeated TARP bailout.  But the new administration, instead of keeping it as a one time expenditure, rolled it into the base line for the continuing budget and then rolled their own additional “Stimulus” money of several more trillion into the base line.  In a truly bizarre and utterly ironic twist of events, the idiot Michael Moore was partially right: we are not as broke as it seems because the reality of one-time expenditures has been rolled forward on paper as if we should be spending that money EVERY year, and God knows King Barrack wants to do just that.

Anybody know of a small isolated island needing a Photo Professor where the national budget is counted in fish and coconuts and one cannot run a deficit because the exchange is based in tangible goods?  No one can say that a pound of fish is, today, worth 1.8 pounds of fish.

I want to declare a moratorium on the use of all labels and personalities used in place of national political debate.  I want to make it mandatory that only the facts be presented and let the voters decide based on facts, not on fear-based labels and emotional arguments.

P.S. – re local/State issues.  I do not support a tax increase; we are driving businesses out-of-state in record numbers and with them, losing the tax base on both corporate and employee levels.  But I do believe the voters have a right to decide for themselves and it should be put on the ballot. and if, according to law, 2/3 of them vote to increase specified taxes then that should be allowed.  Plato referred to pure Democracy as “the rule of fools” but the petition/referendum process in California has already totally subverted the 3-part government approach and created a third branch which is totally unaccountable and has consistently refused to pay for the schemes their petitions have put in place.  Now I think we should give them a choice to face reality.

On the budget ballot we should list the amount that needs to be raised to pay for all of the schemes and let them chose to pay for them with additional taxes or not.  Those that do not get the votes would be scrapped the day the votes are counted.  For those that do, taxes will be raised accordingly unless enough are dropped to make up the difference.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Betting Our Future on a Shell Game

San Diego – OK, what am I missing here?  The Republican Speaker says in order to get him to raise the debt ceiling the Dems have to agree to more budget cuts while the Dems are saying that if we do not raise the debt ceiling we will default on our obligations.  Wait a minute.  Am I the only one to see the logical disconnect with that.  THe only way those statements, especially the ones from the democrats, make sense is if we have ALREADY exceeded the debt ceiling by knowingly borrowing more than we were allowed to under the current debt ceiling.  And if they can just do this anyway then what is the point of even having a debt ceiling?

This is not only a classic shell game, good old cups-and-ball with our nation’s future at stake, it is, as it generally was by good con men, rigged already.  And it is rigged by extremely good con men who already managed to convince their simpleton prey that (a) shutting down the government was disastrous despite the fact that it has happened numerous times with little more than inconvenience at stake and (b) that real cuts of under $10 million were actually nearly $40 million.

And yet, with those actually minuscule cuts already the feeders at the government trough are starting to squeal their displeasure.  And knowing now how easy it is to fool the republican politicians it is no wonder King Barrack was so confident in his speech now openly starting to sell the idea that American prosperity did not really start until Social Security and Medicare, two classic cons that would make Charles Ponzi proud.

The only hope for this country resides in the 2012 election at which time my prediction of 1998 will come true that by 2014 we will have irrevocably cast out future in stone to either get back on the right track or toward doom as just another Balkanized Federation ala European social “democracies.”  Failing that, only the dangers of a real revolution could change things back and if we do not change course then i would predict that sometime by 2030 we will see that revolution getting underway.  What a frightening prospect.  THe people who start revolutions are but rarely the ones to control the authority that follows.  Almost unique was our own revolution but truthfully it was far more a war for independence than a true revolution since we did not seek to overthrow the monarch merely to break away from his rule.

Such prospects, again, make me glad I’m an old guy and will likely not live to see it.  But then, I never thought I’d live to see the day when a slick politician could, in one term, turn us almost completely away from our core values and align us much closer to those of the collectivist, socialist thinking of our former enemies.  i had a higher regard for the American people than to think their intellect so shallow as to not remember the failures of such regimes in the past or their laziness so vast as to think the slop from the government trough was OK.

Propelled by their rush to have all things provided for them, they have forgotten Jefferson’s warning that any authority sufficiently powerful that it can give you anything is powerful enough to take it all away.  Remember the old saying that if you give a man a fish he can eat for a day but if you teach him how to fish for himself he can eat forever?  We seem to be saying to our newly minted king to not waste time with the fishing gear, just keep the flow of fish coming and we will be happy.

Not me, thank you very much.  I know how to fish. And hopefully i will not live to see the government simply close off the fishing holes so that I cannot continue to fish for myself and must eat at their trough and then do their bidding because that has, throughout history, become the inevitable end of such policies.

No wonder the liberal history professors needed to revise history to cover up the litany of failures of their philosophies, as King Barrack is starting to do in his speeches as he continues to run for another term.  I had been concerned about the spread of Islam as a threat to this country’s values and culture but there is a far more imminent danger and it is coming not from without but from within.  It is our own growing weaknesses stemming from too many soft beds and warm meals that will make us vulnerable.  In the end, if we do not change course and get back on track quickly, we will become victims of our own success and in the doing, throw that success away.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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When You Find Yourself in a Hole…

San Diego – An old saying goes, “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging!”  But the approach of our brilliant congress takes another tack: they want us to give them a bigger shovel, or, better yet, a backhoe.

After the fight over the peanuts involved in the “negotiations” over keeping the government open, the next hot topic appears to be the Liberal Keynesian clamor to raise the debt ceiling so the country can borrow more money.  The rationale given is that if we do not raise the debt ceiling thereby allowing us to borrow more money, then it will be a disaster because we will have to default on some of our loans.  What?  Do they not realize what they said?

Basically they are saying that they do not have money to pay the sources from which we have borrowed money and so their best solution is to… borrow some more.  They want to borrow more money to keep from defaulting on previously borrowed money.  Put simply, the plan is to borrow more money to help with their debt problem.  Before becoming President, Senator Obama knew the reality of this and eloquently railed against raising the debt ceiling calling the need to do so a failure of leadership.  He was right then and that statement is STILL right.  But now that he has to apply it to himself, he is saying it was a mistake.  No, Barrack, baby, it wasn’t.

Does anyone out there with some credit card debt see that as a good way to get out form under their debt?  In fact isn’t precisely that approach the first step down the road toward real bankruptcy for so many of us?  We don’t want to cut back, we don’t want to lower our expenditures for material things we have come to see not as niceties but as necessities, we don’t know how to raise our productivity, so we get another credit card to use or raise the limit on ones we already have.  And has that plan ever worked?  No.  So why will it work for the government?

“But, but, with that “breathing room” they can now tackle the underlying and real problems!” goes the cry supporting the plan.  Really.  And i would believe that, why?

In the last fight over a tiny fraction of the budget problem those who wanted to cut back were accused of “…coming to town to kill women!”  They were going, with the paltry cuts proposed as a stop gap, to starve children and old folks, it was screamed about.  So do you really, for a split second, believe that those same people will not fight tooth and nail when the REAL cuts are being proposed?  THey do not want to cut a penny.

As I have said before, the problem is simple.  The citizenry wants more goodies than the government can afford or that they are willing to work for themselves.  And that has led politicians to give them those goodies and in return they keep getting voted in to keep the slop flowing in the trough.  When the revenue did not meet the demands of the expenses, to keep themselves employed by keeping the people happy, the politicians simply borrowed it.  It was easy.  Too easy.  They borrowed it from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, they even printed money and are borrowing it from themselves!  But astonishingly they kept spending at a rate higher than the initial borrowing could handle so they need to increase the borrowing.  And now the deficit (the amount needed to pay for those goodies that we do not actually have) is in the trillions while the debt itself is in the tens of trillions.

And now they want to be able to spend more (raising the deficit) and borrow more (raising the debt) as a solution to it.  if you wrote this as a novel most people would say it makes so little real-world sense as to be unbelievable.  When a situation arises where you do not have the money to pay for what you want and you can no longer borrow money, then you have a clear set of choices; only have what you can pay for, or increase your revenue.  The government is no different.  To be fiscally sound they can either deliver only what the government has the money to pay for, or the citizens have to agree to pay for the services they want.

That is so obvious and so clear, to push for an obviously disastrous third choice, i.e. to raise the debt limit so you can borrow more, is nonsensical on the face of it… if, that is, the goal really is to achieve fiscal stability.

We have long ago passed the point where solutions will be pain free and are well into the phase where solutions will really hurt across the board.  But no one wants to be the ones in pain: they want those OTHER feeders at the trough to be the ones to suffer, but not themselves.  Anybody else hurting is OK, but not themselves or their pets.  So why would anyone believe that the coming fight over the real money is going to be any less rancorous than the fight over the paltry money (in government terms) just fought so viciously over?

Or, since that line of thinking that you can borrow your way out of debt is so bizarre is it possible that applying Occam’s Razor to the issue (Occam posited that the simplest solution was usually the correct one) we might have to realize solving the problem is not really the goal?  Perhaps the problem is, to the ones in charge, not a problem at all but actually a tool and a means to an end. Our system, unique in the history of world governments, was so well thought out, has been so strong and so able to persevere since its inception, the only way to truly transform it, as King Barrack says he wants to do, is to tear it down and start over.  That would be nearly impossible.  Only if the system crashes will there be a likelihood that a new one, built on the constantly failing european social systems can be built in its place.  Hmmmmmmm

Now that is, to me at least, a really ugly line of inquiry.  I do not want it to be true.  But since the declared reasons are so fallacious and spurious on their face it logically means that either the people supporting the declared reason are stupid beyond belief, or that rationale is simply there to cover for a truth that does make sense.

So I need a little help here in figuring out the truth of it.  Can someone show me how it has ever worked to borrow their way out of a debt crisis and if so, how that translates into the government’s avowed plans?  And if not, then can you explain why the sheep are knowingly following their bellwether leaders to almost certain doom?

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Photography Moving Forward to the Past

San Diego -WAIT!!! Don’t go away, this is the right spot.  I just decided to change the look of it to something that better reflected me (at least in my mind)…

It is very strange to me that although I started this journal to deal with photography and education, the best hit counts I get are on the days, like yesterday, when I was off on a political discussion.  Oh well, I am still a photographer and professor of photography and this time I will deal with photo topics, specifically, some old photography.

In searching for some old family photos for a class project on restoration, I came across a professional formal portrait of my mother done in the 1950s. Shot on 8×10 with a Petzval designed portrait lens it really jumped out at me as being elegant and even dimensional in a way that today’s uber-sharp images are often lacking.  Of course in a push-back to digital stuff  many photographers have rushed into the past and adopted accessories like the lens baby and the pinhole camera.  Plastic cameras with plastic lenses and a lifetime supply of light leaks are also popular .  But the results are simply diffused or distorted with very shallow depth of field.  In looking at the old portrait i realized that it was not so much diffused as it was selectively out of focus and with a glow that is not typical of photos that are diffused with a net or similar modifier in the shot or in the darkroom.  In  researching the matter and looking at a lot of photos from such lenses as the iconic Rodenstock Imagon and the Wollensak Verito, I realized this is not a soft focus lens in the normal sense; rather it makes use of two characteristics.  One is that it uses spherical aberration to have the lens focussing on different planes  at the same time and also it uses drop in Waterhouse stops with a twist: around the central aperture hole are a ring (or rings) of additional holes which result in projected halation and subtle multiple images and that is where the glow comes from.

I have an old Cokin filter designed after those Imagon stops that gives a very similar result but not quite.  And in any case digital has spoiled me.  If I produce only a soft image then I cannot bring it back to a state of sharpness if I so desire.  But if I shoot it sharp I can easily degrade it at will.  So i searched for the procedure that would allow me to take a modern, tack sharp capture and produce an image that simulated the “look” of those old portrait lenses.  I also looked much further back in time than my mother’s portrait.  Of course, especially in the days of wet plate photography, not every shot looked alike in those days; for one the effect changed with aperture and focal length; and there was enough variance in the often hand applied emulsions.  Those same cameras and lenses were also used for more than portraiture back then.   So I needed an approach that was itself quite variable to achieve different results as my vision for the shot changed.  It took a while to work out but here are two shots using variations on this procedure.

The first is a re-edited photo of my great friend, Paul Spafford who was responsible for getting me into teaching in the first place at the old San Diego Photo Work Shop back when I was in law school, and also got me into City College where now, after he retired, I actually got his old spot.  This shot was taken originally in 2000 during a demo for one of HIS portrait classes.  It was shot with a Bronica C and Nikor 200mm  Lens with matching portrait diopter on T-Max 100 film.  Done with Norman Strobes the aperture was about f11 and  it is tack sharp everywhere in the original.

I also added some edge treatment and fungus to it to make it look even older.  Of course the clothing and soft lighting are a give-away to it being a modern shot but it is starting to regain some of that dimensionality I saw in the old shots.  There is much more experimenting to do and then it will be time for one of my infamous Data Sheets on the subject.

Also this weekend I took a drive down to the main harbor to see if any boat shots were there I liked.  I’ve been asked to produce some for sale and since that is not my normal subject matter I decided to go look.  Unfortunately the day was excruciatingly nice with little of the atmosphere that existed in my vision for the shots but I hate going out and being “skunked” for a shot.  There were three cruise ships at the docks like the three bears, Papa, Mama, and Baby bear, uh, boat.   For a while the cruise ships had left us due to the economy.  I don’t know if this signals a turn-around or simply was an anomaly but it was nice to see them.  I did the shot of the harbor below first.

The shot above was taken from Harbor Island next to the old Reuben E. Lee.  This was a restaurant in the form of a replicated Riverboat that has been closed for years always just on the cusp of being re-opened but never quite making it.  I was still thinking about the old time look so decided to try something other than a portrait and focused on the smoke stacks.  Of course a real shot from that period, using an orthochromatic emulsion, would have rendered the sky nearly white so I cheated a little to suit my own tastes.

Both the Cruise Ship image and this one were taken with a Canon 1Ds using a Canon “L” 70-200 lens and are very sharp.  Now I’m thinking it would be fun to do some period portraits, with the costuming reflecting the actual lifestyles or personality of the subject.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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