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Somebody’s Lying

“The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.” Thomas Sowell

If the specter of debt, whether it’s the nation’s, your town’s or your own (inevitably all the same thing) has you stressed then ask yourself if you believed the lie rather than the reality. If you believed the lie like the proverbial free lunch, yet voted based on your desire for what you knew deep down was really “impossible”, then perhaps Sowell’s quote above applies. But you’re not alone, not in an America drunk on debt that has just had the sobering cold shower of inflation and rising prices, high interest rates and falling real wages. If you buy the lie that it’s the greed of business that makes the price of energy and food so high, and you continue to support politicians that spew that nonsense, then the shame of the lie is yours because when you kill the truth, all that remains are lies.

Recently, the reality of the fact that the Fed is actually bankrupt has hit the financial news because you really can’t hide something like that.  The Fed’s own balance sheet exposes that fact as its assets are less than its liabilities.  When that occurred, the Fed quickly moved to actually violate its own stress test protocols, including GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures) to make an entry it disingenuously called “Deferred Payments” for money it owes the US Treasury now; that’s a unilateral default on debt it passes off with an accounting gimmick that would have regulators in court with any bank or financial institution attempting such fraudulent behavior.

Why the Fed committed such a fraudulent act is explicable only as one may accept Madoff’s excuse for getting caught when his Ponzi scheme imploded – he ran out of money; the Fed simply fell into a scheme called Quantitative Easing (QE), which started back in 2008, and basically refers to the gimmick of the Fed “buying” UST bonds and MBS (Mortgage Backed Securities) with dollars printed as they ordered from the UST to create liquidity enabling expanded credit and therefore debt. It actually worked for a while, but like all Ponzi schemes you eventually get caught in your own devices. As inflation took off, the Fed had to raise rates, and that meant paying off a higher debt service as the value of your assets fell; the cost of bonds are the inverse of their yield, meaning interest, making the cure as bad as the disease.

Now to make matters worse, the administration went on a spending binge, which of course is contrary to the Fed’s attempt to rein in inflation.  In effect, you have the right hand fighting what the left hand is attempting to do. As Sowell so eloquently put it “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” Spending for that free lunch is what politicians do because that’s what gets votes from the very people that suffer the consequences.

The meaning of shame is the painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior; however, as Sowell noted in the quote above, politicians can be shameless liars convincing the voters that they can give them what is impossible. While the media was filled with stories about FTX, focusing more on cryptocurrencies than the actual frauds committed, the government promised investigations and hearings, virtue signaling moral superiority while causing even more economic destruction with monetary corruption and irresponsible fiscal policies.

The Newspeak never stops as the focus now is on the debt ceiling, with the usual partisan hysteria about how the world will come to an end with an economic Armageddon if this isn’t resolved immediately. As usual, whoever is in power refuses to negotiate claiming how the other side wants to deprive Americans of all sorts of things, and whoever challenges accuses the other side of gross fiduciary negligence as custodians of the national pocketbook. Few talk to the issue of the glaring absence of an approved budget since Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. For FY 2021, what the Administration and Congress did was to pass a series of five continuing resolutions, which was really not a budget but more a running account of what they spent as they went along, accumulating at the end a deficit of $2.6T, equal to about 12.5% of the US GDP.

For FY 2022 we have record spending, but we are told the deficit for that period decreased to $1.4T; are we to believe that although more was spent the deficit fell year-over-year? Assuming that’s true how then did we hit the all-time high of $31.5T in debt? Well that simply attests to the fact that the government monetized much of it through a huge currency inflation causing a painful rise in prices, and now more pain with rising interest rates. Despite all this, we are told by the administration that the economy has never been better. 

As far as the debt ceiling goes, why do we even have one if there is no ceiling on what we spend? Also, why are we told the ceiling has to be raised in order to pay the bills of what has already been spent?  If it’s already spent, the money is gone, so why do we need the ceiling raised? The fact is it’s not money already spent; its money approved but yet to be appropriated, and in order to actually spend it the restriction known as the debt ceiling needs to go higher. Hearing all the partisan ranting about this brings to mind one of my favorite Chris Isaak songs called “Somebody’s Crying.” In it, there’s a refrain that goes “I know that somebody’s lying, I know that somebody’s lying.” That somebody who’s crying is the American people trying to follow this contorted litany of lying by our politicians. We all need to understand however that there’s nothing more shameful than the consent of the victim.

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Empty Promises

“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” Abraham Lincoln

Donald Trump promised that the US would not get into another foreign war and that we would disengage from those that we had conducted for decades; that didn’t happen.  Then Joe Biden promised that, and to his credit he withdrew from Afghanistan; very badly done, but he did it. 

But Joe forgot the other part of the promise about not getting into another foreign war, and so here we are in a war in Ukraine, a country with whom we have no treaty alliance as they are not a member of NATO.  In fact, although the US had previously pushed to have Ukraine in NATO, nearly all other members said no; they don’t even want Ukraine in the EU for various reasons, including that country’s persistent history of authoritarianism and corruption; per the New York Times recent reporting, Ukraine’s cabinet ministry announced the firings of several top Ukrainian officials in the biggest upheaval in President Zelensky’s government to date due to widespread corruption.

The fact is Europe doesn’t really want anything to do with this dispute between Russia and Ukraine as they are all too well aware that not only could their involvement escalate to a wider and more dangerous conflict, but historically for over 350 years Ukraine was simply a region of Russia, culturally and ethnically Russian, and only became “independent” with the dissolution of the Soviet Union a few decades ago.  Further, Ukraine is far from a “democratic” country, and until 2014 was closely aligned with Russia, and like Russia, ruled by an authoritarian regime replete with oligarchs like their former Motherland. If not for US bullying, Europe would have remained neutral.

So what does this thug Zelensky, an authoritarian that has repressed all political opposition and his country’s press and media, have on Joe Biden that gets him to enter a proxy war, funding that regime with billions in arms and armaments, impose illegal sanctions on Russia causing horrendous harm to the EU economy with the loss of Russian energy, and risking an escalation that could lead to a nuclear war?  There is no benefit to the US, indeed not even for our European allies and is a drain on the US economy when we can least afford it. If something doesn’t make any sense it doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to explain it; likely the reasons can be found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Now despite promising the American people that we will not provide the one thing that some so called “military experts” in the Senate say could turn the tide decisively in Ukraine’s favor, i.e. MBT (Main Battle Tanks), in the case of the US the Abrams M1, Biden flips over and now says we will, pledging 31 of these $10M behemoths. An odd number but apparently the rigid composition of a Ukrainian tank battalion. It has been learned that the US was pressuring its NATO allies, principally Germany and the UK, to provide MBT, but they insisted that the US lead the way or they would not contribute. It doesn’t look like there’s much consensus on the team.

Adding to the fumbling, we now learn that it will likely take considerable months for these tanks to be actually deployed in Ukraine. It’s not, as has been reported, a matter of not having the tanks; while the US Army actively deploys about 2,500 of these monsters, there are about 3,700 in storage. The issue is they have to be commissioned, an arduous process, shipped, and then there’s training on what is a highly technical and difficult weapon to operate and maintain.  Further, they were designed to be a part of a far more flexible and nimble mechanized infantry force, a format that the Ukrainian military doesn’t deploy.

As our Department of Defense has repeatedly advised the administration, these tanks are not in and of themselves a panacea for military success, even when joined by German and UK MBT, and further that providing the Ukrainians a system that they can’t afford, successfully operate or sustain, and doesn’t fit their military model could be counterproductive. In short, we potentially have a situation of a square peg in the proverbial round hole, a very deep hole of billions in armaments that may have little actual military benefit, but potentially escalate a regional conflict into a world war.

It’s become painfully obvious that this administration is following the same pattern as previous ones in jumping down a rabbit hole with little to no thought as to where it leads or the consequences of becoming engaged in a conflict that’s virtually not only none of our business, but with no clear benefit for America but with enormous risk and ever increasing costs. There was no clear goal and therefore no real strategy to achieve a goal. What we hear from supporters of this administration’s policy, if indeed there even is something approaching one, is that if you criticize it, you are supporting Putin; that’s a typical reaction we have heard with Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq as if dissent means support for the enemy rather than concern for our country. It appears that Ron Paul was right when he said that “The only thing we learn from history, I am afraid, is that we do not learn from history.”

Classified

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin

With all the news about classified documents being found in the possession of Trump, Biden and most recently Pence, little has been said as to how they came in possession of these documents. What has been said in Trump’s case is speculation that in the mad rush to vacate the White House once the reality of having lost the election set in, his staff simply dumped everything in boxes, including these documents, and hauled them off to a basement file room in Mar-a-Lago.  In Biden’s case, he just doesn’t recall how they got wherever they were found; the same is said by Pence.

But that doesn’t really explain how something that various officials and the media claim is so critical simply is “discovered” to be where it’s not supposed to be. The responsibility for the retention and security of these documents is the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration”. When a document is requested by those with the proper clearances it is brought to what the U.S. Department of Defense calls a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), basically a room certified and accredited as meeting Director of National Intelligence security standards for the processing, storage, and/or discussion of sensitive compartmented information. Wow, does this stuff get thick on the tongue but apparently thin on effectiveness.

The fact is that the process is so ineffective that there have been many presidents, vice presidents and other government officials who have been found to possess classified documents outside of these SCIFs, both while in office and after they leave office, like Truman, Carter, Clinton, Obama, and of late Trump, Biden and now Pence; all have cooperatively and willingly returned such documents, with the infamous exception of Trump who first denied possession, then fought for retention with at best dubious legal tactics. 

However, we are still left with the explanation as to how, with all these seemingly strict security protocols, does this happen? Is there some secret password they use, a special nod and wink signal to leave the SCIF with this stuff in hand? As one official at the National Archives and Records Administration anonymously confided with a reporter, the SCIF is an illusion, an invention on paper; the reality is sloppy housekeeping made newsworthy once exposed.

It is still concerning that this has happened, especially in the case with Trump and Biden, both of whom have had dubious relationships with foreign governments in Russia, Ukraine and China. While the Steele Dossier has been discredited as a fabrication by a now disgraced FBI agent, Trump’s relationship and business dealings with Putin have always been concerning, but in truth no more so than Biden’s through his son Hunter with Ukraine and China. In fact, Biden had classified documents that go back 14 years to his time as a Senator, as do Hunter’s influence peddling schemes.

Now consider the case of Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher, and activist who founded Wikileaks in 2006, and who the U.S. Department of Justice has indicted, alleging that he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak and publish classified documents which showed that the U.S. military killed Iraqi and Afghani civilians and did not report the incidents. Further, during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, he published confidential Democratic Party  emails showing that the party’s  national committee conspired against Bernie Sanders in the primaries in order to get Hilary Clinton the nomination. WikiLeaks also published a series of documents which detailed the CIA’s electronic surveillance of not only US allies, but US citizens. Assange has been confined in Belmarsh Prison, London since April 2019; as of July 2022, Julian Assange is appealing the UK decision granting extradition to the US. The point is that if Julian Assange is subject to prosecution for taking classified documents, and then exposing US war crimes, rigged elections and illegal surveillances, what should we expect for both Trump and Biden? My guess is Trump and Biden will not face what Assange has so far.

Which brings to my mind the question of what exactly qualifies for something to be classified information? The government’s ready answer is whatever constitutes an issue of national security; how often have we heard that line before? So what constitutes an issue of national security? When our government was more direct and honest, which was a long time ago, the answer was any issue involving military or non-military threats against the territory of the US and its citizens, their properties, their commerce and economic security; lately it seems to be whatever the government says it is. What Julian Assange is really guilty of in the eyes of the government is exposing that which it did wrong.

So who decides what information is classified?  According to Federal law classification authority may be exercised only by the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President, agency heads and officials designated by the President. Now that’s a whole lot of people who, with little if any Congressional oversight, can simply deem information to be of sufficient sensitivity as to be classified, like war crimes, rigged elections and illegal surveillances.

Time

“The measured or measurable period during which an action, process or condition exists or continues; duration; a continuum which lacks spatial dimensions and which events succeed one another from past to present to future; the point or period when something occurs.” Webster’s Dictionary

As a child I always wondered why adults where so concerned about time, yet when I asked what that was everyone looked at me as if I was either a genius or a dolt. I know more now than back then so I don’t consider myself either a genius or a dolt; however, back then I didn’t really understand what time actually is. The above definition just didn’t do it for me; it told me it can be measured, but that it has no spatial dimensions; it references past, present and future as periods of time, but not as to what time is.

Actually the answer as to what time is depends on the subject involved. If you were to ask why someone is spending time asking the question what time is, then it could be answered with a question as to what is being spent? However, the initial question is a fair one, especially since people either dismiss it or obsess about it, but never really can say why they do either. Regardless what subject is involved, what we do know about time is that we have devised a way to measure it, and with the exception of ignorant people, we know it has value. Measuring it tells us how much time there is or has been, but its value is subjective as all values are.

Aristotle’s Law of Identity includes the simple concept that nothing can both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same respect. So time can be a specific occurrence, but in the context of identity what something is at any one time never changes, which in effect makes time irrelevant to identity. On the other hand Aristotle defines time as a number of changes with respect to the past and the future, that time has a dimension that can be calculated. Then we have Einstein, who said that time is relative and flexible, and the dividing line between past, present and future is an illusion as reality is ultimately timeless. Einstein also famously said that “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”; thanks Albert, nothing like clarity and consistency to confuse us lesser minds. Like I said, I’m no genius, so as to define time according to either Aristotle or Einstein as a useful concept for everyday life for us mere mortals really doesn’t do it for me.

All things in the human story didn’t, as Albert said, happen at the same time, but as time is the most import thing in the human story, we ought to be able to understand what it actually is in the sense of what it means for our lives. Well there was a man who gave us that, and he remains my favorite American sage, good old Ben Franklin; well not old anymore as he’s been dead for quite some time now, but he was really good at cutting to the quick with common sense and obvious insights. “Remember that time is money.” is a famous proverb that I doubt most Americans know is from good old Ben; he has a corollary to that with “Lost time is never found again.”

I may never be able to grasp what Einstein understood time to be, or Aristotle’s existential meaning in the law of identity, but I get where Ben is coming from because everyone spends their lives trying to make a living, and the time we put into that comes to us as money, i.e. as a value we trade for by giving the time of our lives to get it. Some of us get more value for our time than others, but as time is our true currency and each day has the same account of time, we all have that one same thing in common; the difference is what we do with it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Aristotle or an Einstein, if you don’t value your time, why should anyone else?  

In a common sense context, the value of time is an essential thing we need to understand as a civil society. The greatest fallacy of our age is to waste, or allow to be wasted, time on unnecessary and extraneous efforts based on political motivations; that this is happening with increasing frequency and intensity has led American society away from a civil, harmonious and more productive way of life. The American people in the past had more in common than now as they were focused on their livelihood and less so on things that did not serve to its benefit; this focus included the educational development of their children, on the reality of having to spend the time to learn the skills and knowledge necessary for a productive life. Education was valued as a way for the next generation to have a better time than the previous one. It’s vital that the time spent on education is used this way; as a famous coach by the name of John Wooden once said “If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”

Now education is more about how to make others use their time to someone else’s benefit; hardly a way toward a more civil society or a productive use of time. So when we hear such ignorant platitudes like “Money isn’t everything.” or “Money is the root of all evil.”, understand that what is being so mindlessly dismissed is actually the time in our lives. That it takes time to create value should not be a difficult concept for anyone to grasp. What we do with that time is to expend mental and/or physical effort in order to achieve a purpose or result which has value. When a thief steals from us, what they are actually taking is the time of our lives that created the value they’re stealing. It doesn’t matter if that thief is a burglar, a swindling financier or a corrupt politician, the result is the same.

As Ben Franklin said, time can’t be replaced; as it passes, so does the opportunity to gain those things that make the time we have of more value. The greater value we place in the time we have, the more value we will gain from the time we give. The only regret we should have when our time is up is hopefully not what we did, but more about what we didn’t have more time to do.

Stupidity, Ignorance or What?

“Stupid is as stupid does.” George Bernard Shaw

Many people think this phrase originally came from the film “Forest Gump”, but it’s actually from the play “Major Barbara”, written by George Bernard Shaw more than a century ago. Stupidity and ignorance is not the same thing; stupidity is a lack of intelligence, whereas ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Back in Shaw’s day we could actually use these words to describe someone’s actions with a clarity of understanding as to what was meant; unfortunately today saying something so obvious is deemed insensitive and derogatory, making you subject to condemnation, cancellation or even dismissal from employment.

Listening to mass media exposes you to many instances where either of these words would succinctly and aptly describe people’s actions; what is astounding is how often this occurs in finance, academia and politics. Any person with common sense should immediately ask themselves if they are witnessing stupidity, ignorance or perhaps something else. There are, and likely always will be people who depend on the stupidity, ignorance, greed, or the delusions of others as a way to make a buck; Bernie Madoff famously comes to mind and now we have Sam Bankman-Fried, both of whom saw such instances as opportunities for their fraudulent schemes.

In the case of Bernie, he was much more skillful than Sam, running the largest Ponzi scheme ever for more than 20 years for some $65B before he got caught.  Fortunately nearly 88% of the assets were recovered and returned to investors. On the other hand we have Sam, whose $8B scheme began in 2019 and recently ended with his arrest. Bernie’s was a classic and simple Ponzi scheme, doing the usual return on investments to existing clients from funds secured from new ones; it was inherently unsustainable as kicking the can down the road means you will eventually run out of road. Few made excuses for Bernie or expressed sympathy for his demise, which is as it should be.

Now we have the case with Sam, a bewilderingly obvious fraudulent scheme diverting funds from FTX where his clients invested their money, to Alameda, his private hedge fund, with which he made huge real estate purchases and political donations. Prior to FTX announcing that it had financial problems in early November, many in the media and academia lauded Sam as the new face of socially responsible investment management, praising his progressive approach, while saying nothing about the risky assets FTX was involved with. Even when FTX announced bankruptcy there was this fawning reaction of many as to the altruistic motives and intentions of Sam, deploring not the theft of his clients’ money, but the failure to fund the grants he made for biodiversity and other worthy causes. 

Eventually, so obvious was this fraudulent machination that many financial commentators began wondering why anyone would have invested with FTX and why it took so long for it to be exposed. To add to the stupidity and ignorance of this story is how to explain the focus of some of the politicians involved on the risky assets Sam invested in, principally cryptocurrencies; it’s not the assets that he invested his client’s money in that was a crime, but his fraudulent actions in siphoning off investor’s money into his own pockets from which he bought extravagant real estate and political favor. While the real estate bought can be liquidated, what about the political donations? This is where we need to look beyond the stupidity and ignorance of these actions, and the media coverage. We have learned that these donations were made to both Democrats and Republicans, and in violation of campaign finance laws. 

As the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York reports on the names of the recipients, some have stated that they will be refunding the donations; however, that fails to explain whether or not they were aware of the source of or manner in which these donations were made. The fact that politicians are making so much of the assets invested in by calling for investigations into cryptocurrencies appears more as a deflection given their acceptance of the donations, especially as they were made illegally. Considering that 60% of the House, and 66% of the Senate are attorneys, and Congress makes such laws as those governing campaign contributions, it seems impossible to explain their involvement as either a case of stupidity or ignorance.

We should not be deceived here into thinking that those intelligent enough to win an election, even if disingenuously, and who have a considerable level of education, often in the legal and business professions, were not at least aware of the source of or manner in which these donations were made; neither should we be distracted by the purported altruistic intentions of our poor misguided Sam, who incredulously claims he was unaware of what was going on, any more than we should consider the same from the politicians involved.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)

Meddlesome

“Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things.” Mises

The Biden administration’s new National Security Strategy is a declaration for intervention everywhere in the world, with the justification to assure the progress of democracy. The policy actually claims that the US has the unlimited ability to, in effect, remake the world; the absurdity of such a statement is childish as it ignores the fundamental essence of economics as the science of scarcity, which is all about trade-offs as everything is constrained by the reality that the demand for all goods and services is greater than the availability, thereby limiting choices. Embracing a policy based on an unlimited ability means you believe there are no constraints, similar to a spoiled child’s demands for endless gratification.

It stinks of the hubris of a new “Manifest Destiny”, only this time not limited to North America. It’s hard to imagine after all that the world has suffered through a century of endless wars that an American President would propose a stratagem to impose a new world order in its own image and likeness. The elitist messaging that this sends to both allies and enemies alike is that no part of the world is safe from US meddling and interventionism; the justification for such a policy is cloaked in that age old and tired mantra of our national security interests.

While not literally, or honestly, admitting to the weaponizing of sectors of the economy like finance, energy, food and trade, what this policy makes clear to both friend and enemy alike is a manifesto to rule the world. While this is not actually something new as the US has essentially behaved in this manner since the end of WWII, exporting democracy via proxy wars and regime change is reminiscent of a Soviet like strategy during the Cold War. The twisted ideology that the US has a moral duty to police the world is pure war mongering propaganda, making US intentions blatantly obvious and therefore critically alarming to all that value peace.

We have in fact already witnessed elements of this policy with how the Biden administration has meddled in the Russian-Ukrainian War; through its dominance in NATO it uses sanctions and the subsidization of Ukraine’s military. Sanctions and proxy wars are not diplomacy, they are the path to direct and expanded conflicts, or at the least a way to make enemies even of those who could otherwise be friends; they are also a drain on our economic health, one already burdened by a crushing debt. The Biden administration’s sale of arms and military supplies to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Yemen war, facilitating horrific death and destruction, is another example of this malignant policy.

Curiously, a generation ago it was the Democrats who criticized Republicans and Neocons for such war mongering; now we have a reversal, although partial as many Republicans support the Administration’s policies. There’s an old joke how Republicans are actually big government liberals too, but they do it cheaper than Democrats; unfortunately the results are not very humorous. The original idea for US policy was an American tradition of foreign non-intervention, a tradition now dismissed and long forgotten.

Historically sanctions, tariffs and other such trade policies have led to violent conflicts. Conversely, free trade produces an environment where countries that trade with each other are reluctant to go to war for fear of the economic losses and a desire for the benefits of peace; a sense of tolerance and of living and letting live grows with the economic progress that results. However, the state is essentially a concept of power, of competition, and gives rise to nationalism. Policies such as those espoused by the Biden Administration seek to confuse the wellbeing of society with that of the state. “What if the American people woke up and understood that the official reasons for going to war are almost always based on lies and promoted by war propaganda in order to serve special interests?” asked then Congressman Ron Paul in his 02/12/09 speech before the US House of Representatives; great question, one that appears lately to be making some impression nearly 14 years later.

In my 09/08/20 post entitled “The Warfare State”, I mentioned the 1952 article “The Rise of Empire” by the famous American journalist Garet Garrett, who outlined what he called the “Hallmarks of Empire”, summarized as the dominance of executive power, subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy, ascendancy of the military, development of foreign satellite or proxy regimes, and last, but in relation to this current policy, is the frightening sense of  “What we will to do, that we can do.”, what Garret called “vaunting”, and its corollary of “fear”, that we will ultimately standalone against all the evils of the world unless we aggressively act.

If this all sounds familiar to anyone, it should; this was the theme of many of the worlds past war mongering regimes, and they all led their people to disaster. In all cases these policies were linked to the state’s dominance in society’s economic life.  As Mises so insightfully observed it is axiomatic that such policies can’t succeed without socialism; as Ron Paul noted “It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking.” Such policies are extremely expensive, so in order to implement them, you need money, more than what can be obtained with a sound currency, so corrupt it, control it, and you have your war chest.

It is clear that Biden’s foreign policy statement is informed by those that understand that statism needs war because it can only survive with power, and to get power it needs the wealth of the nation, and to get the wealth of the nation, it will perpetuate war.  Notice how the Defense Department, while still unable to account for all the money it has spent, again got an increase in its budget.  It is a policy that, as George Orwell observed, “The object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war.”

Truth is Inevitable

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei.

When the NY Post first broke the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020, I read about it first in the NY Times, who claimed then that the story was Russian disinformation, as did the Washington Post. At that time I discounted the NY Post story given that then President Trump began using it as the grounds for his campaign accusations of corruption against Joe Biden. The only excuse for what is now an obvious error by many, including myself, is that you could not trust what Trump said given his record of deceitful rants.

However, the story simply would not die. It was soon learned that Hunter Biden, in his state of drug and alcoholic abuse, had in fact simply forgotten that he had left his laptop in a repair shop; it eventually wound up in the hands of the FBI. We were then treated to brain numbing by a thousand micro-fact releases until the NY Times in March 2022, and the Washington Post in April 2022 both confirmed that the NY Post story was true as the information on the laptop confirmed the activities of Hunter and the involvement of his father.

How did such legacy newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post not only fail to get the story right to begin with, outdone by a tabloid sheet like the NY Post, but why did they trash the story as nothing more than Russian disinformation? I admit that I was fooled at the time, and failed to consider that if the NY Post story was based on the information found in the laptop, we are talking about verifiable data, not “disinformation”. Apparently I was not alone as many Americans were also skeptical of a tabloid’s reporting and a known liar’s election campaign rants. It was a clear case of what John Adams said that “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

The story keeps getting worse as more facts come out. There are emails and other documents on the laptop that address what can only be characterized as influence peddling. With Hunter’s reference to the “Big Guy”, this is no longer just a Hunter Biden story as much as it is more a Joe Biden story. What makes it all the more concerning is who was after the influence, and we get such disreputable players like Ukraine, a notoriously corrupt player locked in a never ending conflict with Russia, and for whom the US is involved in a proxy war sending them billions in arms. There are other countries like China and Saudi Arabia, not exactly friends of democracy.

The story does not end with the laptop. We are now inundated daily by legacy journalism, the administration and much of social media having a meltdown over Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter; the ostensible reason for this is Elon’s avowed policy to cease the censorship of the prior ownership, as if free speech is now a danger to democracy. As the new Twitter team digs through the past, it comes to light that there was a collusion to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story on that platform by none other than the FBI, who was tasked to advise Twitter to suppress any posts in reference to it.

Elon had the related files sent to Matt Taibbi, an independent journalist, who then released them.  Elon did so because he was skeptical of how the major media outlets would handle the files based on prior performance; his concerns were confirmed justified given the outrage by mass media and politicians in both parties, who denounced the release as “unethical” and a “distraction”; curious comments considering the historical behavior of those institutions regarding this story. Given the mast head slogans of the NY Times, “All the news that’s fit to print.”, and the Washington Post, “Democracy dies in darkness.”, and the midterm election claim by the Biden Administration that the vote was about saving democracy, the hypocrisy of such reactions is astounding.

It is uncertain where all of this will lead, other than providing a political fire storm; surely there will be hearings, but I think Will Rogers will again be proven right about how congressional hearings are a sure way to get things out of the public’s mind. However, there is another dimension here that is far more important than another case of executive misconduct; we now have the FBI joining the list of politicized agencies like the NSA and CIA, representing a clear and present danger to liberty in America. Hopefully the fact that the top police agency in the US colluded to suppress the facts about this misconduct will not be glossed over in the paper chase of Senate or House investigations.

So now we have all the threats to Elon Musk and Twitter by both the political and media powers. While it’s hard to imagine that the Disinformation Governance Board would be put back in operation, based on the reaction to what will infamously be known now as the “Twitter Files”, the possibility can’t be discounted.  The fact that the NY Times and the Washington Post performed so badly regarding this story is just a continuation of why Journalism in the US is rated so poorly by the Reuters Institute:

“The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford’s 2021 survey of trust in media ranked the US last among 49countries with a media trust of only 29%. The majority of Americans surveyed responded that they found that the media has embraced advocacy journalism resulting in a quasi-state media where journalists are more bound to the government’s embrace of ideology rather than independent and objective reporting, and anyone questioning that trend risks instant cancellation. They consider current media as an echo chamber rather than a reliable information source.”

How can our “free press” have fallen so low given the role of the very same Washington Post in the Watergate scandal with the disclosure in 1972 of Nixon’s paranoid activities against the DNC, or the NY Times admission and disclosure that the Bush administration’s claim of WMD to justify the invasion of Iraq was false?  There’s another story here as it is becoming ever more apparent that the culture of American society is fractured with most increasingly distrustful of its institutions, and some more receptive of its repression of liberty. Not too long ago there was a president who spoke to this issue:

“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right; for a nation that is afraid to let its people to judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” JFK

Thinking

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” Carl Jung

I came across the above quote in an article unrelated to the subject of what thinking is, but as the quote relates to and contains the subject of this post, it seemed to be a good place to start. The quote also implies both an important connection and a difference between thinking and judging; that connection and difference, when you “think” about it, becomes “critical”, especially when everything in recent years is judged according to a polarized agenda.

To begin with, all definitions of thinking contain the word “process”, in this instance of using the mind for reasoning about something, like solving a problem. What gets tricky here is that to be successful in that process it must be objective, meaning done with an open mind so as to see facts clearly and not through the prism of your personal feelings and beliefs, or what is assumed to be conventional wisdom. That’s hard to do because it means subjugating the self so it doesn’t influence thinking with preconceptions; this kind of an unbiased process is called critical thinking, but when you “think” about that, you realize how difficult it can be, and therefore why, as Jung put it, “…most people judge.” 

To judge is to form an opinion or conclusion about something; when the process to get to that point is critical thinking, then that judgement can be considered to be unbiased and therefore correct.  However, as William James once observed, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” When people allow their innate urge to be right, to be better, to be superior, they are caught up in a binary view of the world around us, necessitating the need to be right or the fear of being wrong, so they tend to base their judgements on beliefs rather than facts.

I choose this topic for this post because it is quite disturbing to see how our educational institutions are failing our youth in the basic subjects of reading and writing, mathematics and science; these are essential learning skills required for critical thinking. This is not a recent trend as it goes back to the late 1970s; around that time US economists became alarmed by a decline in the growth of U.S. productivity which they accounted for by American schools taking a dramatic turn for the worse. After multiple decades of increases, student achievement tests scores declined sharply in 1967, and with few exceptions continued to do so to current times. In the 2021 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results, the US placed 22nd.

Aristotle, considered the greatest thinker and teacher of all time, observed “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” Hope is not a process of thinking, but an emotion; we need hope emotionally as an incentive to carry on in the face if adversity, but it must lead to taking action, but action without thinking is counterproductive. Aristotle’s point is that as youth is so impressionable, they can more easily be taught, which places on the teacher a very high standard of ethical conduct and ability in the essential instruction of basic skills, which are far more valuable than lofty ideas.

We hear much today about parent’s concern that children aren’t being taught basic skills but are being indoctrinated by an educational system dedicated to progressivism. This is not a new phenomenon as the same occurred in the 1950’s with a conservativism reacting to the Red Scare, leading to educational “reforms” for an exorcism of Soviet propaganda. Then again in the 1970’s and 1980’s for reforms to achieve racial balance and promote environmentalism, and on to today with wokeism, and tomorrow who knows. Regardless of the motive behind such educational “reforms”, they are a product of the politicization of education, a devolution to indoctrination; that is a very dangerous policy for education because it substitutes how to think with what to think; that is intellectual coercion, eliminating thinking which is the basic tool for a successful and happy life.

Education is about teaching kids critical thinking skills, whereas indoctrination is about teaching them political narratives. The former provides competency, the ability to function as a thoughtful human being, the later orthodoxy, a form of unconsciousness. What parents really need to do is protect their children’s greatest asset, their minds; if they don’t do that, they should not be surprised that “So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that too.” Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

The Runoff

“Both parties have their good times and bad times at different times. Good when they are out. Bad when they are in.” Will Rogers

With the midterm elections almost over, there are many issues that arose over this past biennial event, one being why it takes so long in the US, supposedly the most advanced democracy, to actually determine who wins an election? Brazil’s recent election was called within hours after the polls closed, yet here in the US it took nearly a week to get many results, and we still have the runoff in Georgia for the Senate on December 6th.  Perhaps there’s some truth to playwright Tom Stoppard’s quip that “It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.”

I was recently asked what I thought libertarians would do in the upcoming Georgia runoff. That is a complex issue to address, as it takes some consideration of both where the LP Georgia is at and what most libertarians think about that issue. Nationally in 20 polls on the topic of party affiliation spanning the last 13 years, Gallup found that voters who claim to be libertarian ranged from 17 to 23% of the American electorate; of that polls found that 22% were Democratic voters, 19% were independent voters and 12% were Republican voters. However, the poll also found that those who identified as libertarian voted variously at any given time depending on the issues involved in an election.

On average, about 40% of the US electorate now claims to be independent, with the balance about split between the two major parties. These statistics account for why elections are becoming increasingly difficult to forecast as they become more closely contested. Republicans and Democrats are increasing upset about this phenomenon, a fact that contributed to NYS revising ballot requirements to restrict third parties, as have some other states. Many on the news this past election day reported races “too-close-to-call”, even days after the polls closed.

As the largest third party in the US, libertarians are often blamed by both parties as the culprits for such things, especially the Georgia runoff. Raphael Warnock got 49.4% of the vote, Herschel Walker 48.5% and Chase Oliver 2.1%; as Georgia requires the winner to have at least 50% of the vote, a runoff is required. Considering that in the runoff libertarians are considered the deciding vote, alienating them with the blame game seems counterproductive for either major party.

The LP Georgia has decided not to endorse either candidate; the official stand is that if the Republican and Democratic parties want to court libertarian voters, they should do so by becoming more libertarian, as opposed to saying “We aren’t as bad as Democrats” or “We aren’t as bad as Republicans”; that just doesn’t cut it because libertarians traditionally don’t subscribe to the lesser of two evils, although that doesn’t necessarily mean none will participate. 

The outcome will likely be inconsequential given that the current count is 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 Independents; however, the independents have so far caucused with the Democrats, so even if Walker wins the runoff the Senate will be split. In the event of a tied vote in the Senate we have the constitutional anomaly of legislative action by the executive branch as the Vice President gets to vote.  As this has been the case for the last two years, nothing will have changed with this midterm election should Walker win as Harris is the VP; should Warnock win, there will be a true majority with the Democratic Party in the Senate, so either way it will make no difference.

The issues in Georgia are reported to be abortion, economy, health care, guns, voting rights and veterans, but unclear the order of priorities. Libertarians are pro-choice, free market, anti-war and constitutionalist; neither of the two candidates are very appealing to libertarians on either their principles or personalities so the choice between Warnock and Walker is therefore ambiguous for them. Republicans aren’t very pro-life when it comes to wars, the death penalty, and the state’s murderous drug war. Democrats aren’t exactly pro-choice when it comes to healthcare, education, and guns.

After generations of voting for the lesser of two evils the only difference is how fast we get to the inevitable results. The reality is that there is no such thing as the lesser of two evils, but there is definitely a constant conflict between good and evil. People are imperfect, but that doesn’t mean you don’t strive to defeat evil. One never throws away their vote by voting their conscience; such a position is the hobgoblin propaganda of both major parties and to combat that they will, as they have, strive to eliminate the conscience of people.

In the Georgia Senate campaigns, both parties strove to place their candidate on higher moral ground, when in fact neither one belonged there; for one thing they both lied, Warnock about evicting parishioners from the church he is minister of who don’t agree with him and Walker about his personal relationships. Neither should be a political concern except for the fact that you can’t trust a liar, which would describe many politicians. When it comes to our two major parties, we can see why Will Rogers once observed that “A flock of Democrats will replace a mess of Republicans. It won’t mean a thing. They will go in like all the rest of ’em. Go in on promises and come out on alibis.”

Violence

“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.” Frank Herbert

Most people remember Frank Herbert for his famous book series “Dune”. While his work categorically is science fiction, he was also a student of philosophy, sociology and ecology. Like Robert Heinlein, he was immensely distrustful of government, especially the growth of its powers and emphasis on leadership. Much of what the great science fiction writers did was to use the trends of the present to project what the future could become, and all too often, as was the case with Frank Herbert, they were prescient.

As America grew in global stature in the early 20th Century, the Federal government became more and more the domestic focus as political power became more centralized, and consequently more isolated from the people it was created to serve. Its focus became how to use power for the policies its leaders of the day proposed. Such concentration of power inevitably leads to coercion as after all what use is power if you don’t use it? As Frank Herbert so eloquently observed in the quote above, violence becomes an addiction.

The invasion of the Pelosi home by David DePape, a deranged person by any measure of mental instability, is a sad manifestation of a social disorder similar to the attacks on Supreme Court Justices following the Dobbs decision, partisan extremism with the Summer of 2020 Riots following the George Floyd murder and the Capitol Riots of January 6; these are clear indications that the social fabric of American society is seriously damaged.

The question is how do we heal that damage? Biden’s characterization of the Republican Party as semi-fascist is not the way, especially given his campaign pledge to be the unifier promoting bipartisan cooperation; neither is the manipulation of the illegal immigration crisis by Republican Governors, the wrong answer to the admittedly obvious failure of government policies that created this human tragedy. Unfortunately we are exposed to opportunistic demigods that seek more power by cloaking themselves in partisan propaganda, a game of vote harvesting devoid of any principles forming coherent policies.

There is an existential difference between state and society, but without direction as a society the state is emboldened at the expense of its citizens by their politicians; therefore the solution must come from American citizens, not their politicians. When Americans understand that the only way for politicians to control society is to give them the power to do so, they will cease voting for those politicians. All too often when it comes to leadership Americans are left with the proverbial lesser of two evils; wanting less evil is not the same as doing away with evil any more than having less cancer makes one healthy.

For a society to be healthy, people should not be reliant on the state for their welfare, nor encumbered by the state in pursuit of their interests. They need an environment for spontaneous and organic interaction as they see fit, not subject to what the state will permit.  What they need the state and their politicians to do is to keep their oath of office to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”; this oath of office presumes the existence of some evil that promotes violence, and unfortunately such a presumption is well founded, especially among those seeking power.

There are many and diverse reasons for violence but in the context of this post it is the acceptance of coercion to promote political ends that causes societal violence.  When the rule of law as a deterrent against violence is compromised by either diminishing protections against compulsion or using it as a means of compulsion, society will experience an increase in violence and a loss in its sense of security.  The intrusion of the state into society with laws that provide for preferential benefits causes disequilibrium in that society by sowing resentment among its citizens. As will Rogers famously said during the Great Depression “Everybody nowadays is suggesting ways of getting prosperous on somebody else’s money.”

Political leadership that promotes such policies is inherently toxic to society; by lying and being tone deaf, by being arrogant in the face of its own incompetence, valuing its hierarchy over the welfare of its citizens, discriminating in favor of its voting base, showing self-interest over national interest, we have a leadership that can only thrive in an environment of the violence it has itself created; such is the state of play in American politics for more than a century now.

Thomas Hobbes wrote some three hundred years ago that “The social contract to surrender powers to the state was based on the promise of protection from the violence and intimidation of others.” This is the reason for being for the state. Now the state has become a monopoly of legitimized violence, often by decree as the Constitutional role of Congress regarding war powers has been usurped executively; it’s violence concealed by lies, like making the world safe for democracy, a lie to further maintain and justify violence, both foreign and domestic.

The use of violence is a sign of incompetence, the inability to understand and accept that others have the right to their beliefs as long as they do not confuse compulsion with compassion; should that occur, you have the initiation of violence, an act that is ultimately self-destructive. As another great science fiction writer put it “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov