Just Say No

“To eliminate statism is not to physically subdue the rulers, but to mentally liberate the ruled.”
Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski

For those like myself who were not familiar with the author of the above quote, I first read of Jakub in a Mises article. He is a professor of Law, Administration, and Economics at the University of Wroclaw with an MA in philosophy from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in political economy from King’s College London. He is the author of many books about political science and economics. I found this quote to be particularly relevant to the topic of this post.

When politicians sense that their popularity, i.e. power, is falling, they have a well-used tool chest to fix the “problem”. In general, the most useful tool is a crisis, and if there isn’t one handy, they will create one. Crises give cover to those who crave power, especially when their agenda is not being well received. It provides a narrative around which they can construct a reasonable argument for doing those things the general public would likely not tolerate in less turbulent times, a narrative that blurs the lines between society, government and the state.

The pandemic, despite the recent uptick in positive testing (send out massive quantities of test kits, get back massive results), is a crisis of more than two years with now diminishing returns for power grabbing. What politicians in trouble love more than anything is a good old fashion war.  Nothing satisfies a power lust like what you can grab with a war; it’s like blood for a vampire as it sucks the life out of a nation’s polity, economy and social stability. 

In the case of the Russian/Ukrainian War, as has been stated many times before here and by the more well known intelligent and moral folks than those in power, the US has no treaty, security or territorial basis for involvement in that conflict. However, it represents an opportunity for the current administration to deflect attention from its many failures by making this a crisis for the US regardless of the fact that none exists.

Add to this that President Biden announced today a deployment of seven hundred American troops to Somalia. While I have been highly critical of Trump, one thing he did that I supported was getting us out of that slow burn war that had no legitimacy whatsoever; so to see Biden reverse that on the pretext of “….a more effective fight against Al Shabab.” is truly alarming. When did we declare war on Somalia? Are we going to do so to every country where a terrorist organization exists? Why then did Biden withdraw from the Forever War in Afghanistan only to redirect the same stupidity in Somalia?

The answer is the economy. As it becomes increasingly obvious that inflation is persistent, and that the Fed is way behind the curve and desperately trying to catch-up with ever increasing rates, lower GDP forecasting a slowing economy, a falling market, and persistent supply problems, polls are showing a steady decline in Biden’s popularity. Distractions like the leaked Alito preliminary opinion fueling outrage on a likely reversal of Roe vs. Wade are just not getting the kind of crisis needed for a sufficient deflection from the hurt on American’s pocket books.

Trying to blame business for high prices after the most egregious monetary and fiscal bloating of all time has just not had the traction the administration hoped for; while current American society is no more economically astute than in the past, that old deflection isn’t making points anymore. The mystery that some folks question is why is the dollar so strong? What we need to understand is that the nature of fiat currencies, which is the only type left in the entire world, is relativity; when all central banks inflate, and all governments spend from empty pockets accumulating incomprehensible debt, the only differentiating element is interest rates, and on that score the US is ahead of others, at least for the moment.

We have now spent more on aid to Ukraine than we have on our own infrastructure over the last year, despite the largest appropriation for that in generations, and in the face of record debt and a falling economy. We have a critical shortage of life essentials like baby formula, but stupidly refuse to allow importation of European and Canadian products. We have an energy crisis resulting in record energy prices yet the administration inexplicably cancels federal leases for major gas and oil production. So it’s understandable in the midst of all this mismanagement why deflection is needed.

This is what happens when government “manages” an economy; it’s not just a Biden administration issue, it’s an American issue, and we will all suffer the consequences, because all such things have consequences. Americans pay the state about $4.5T in taxes each year, and this is what we get for our money. The state does a poor job at protecting our rights while funding military adventurism, bailing out big banks, giving lucrative grants to the politically well-connected, keeping half the population in a state of dependency, and flying drones around the Middle East and Africa blowing people up. We have politicians of both parties supporting ever increasing belligerence and confrontation with Russia, China, Iran and a host of smaller countries for no other reason than to maintain the straw man of American hegemony, and of course deflect attention from problems they create.

Increasingly, we hear from both parties a call to repress “disinformation”, a phrase as elastic in meaning as anything that is contrary to what those in power want you to know, believe or express. This particularly virulent form of statist virtue signaling we used to call censorship, a word that is politically and constitutionally toxic, so instead we get the benevolent sounding words like “fake news”, “misinformation” and “disinformation”. However, be found within the ever expanding scope of what is not acceptable and you are viscously attacked with labels like “racist” or “fascist”; in short, don’t be a crisis pooper.

It is time for the American people to do something they haven’t done in a very long time, and that’s to say “no”, or to put it in Jakub’s terms, become mentally liberated. Americans have allowed themselves to become conditioned to repress their own self-interest for the “greater good”, that vague and malleable concept politicians love as if politics has become a new religion. There’s another word for that kind of persuasion, and it’s called manipulation.

For the politically elite, it has become a way of life. They never take responsibility for their actions, always attempting to convince us that there’s a crisis that needs our attention more than what we actually need to do. They take and take until you’ve finally had enough, then they move on to the next crisis. It’s time to look for new leadership, and listen to those that tell you that your interests are more important than theirs.

Who owns you?

“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.” John Locke

Given the recent firestorm over the leak of Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s preliminary opinion on Roe vs. Wade, John Locke’s quote above provides existential meaning to the concept of owning oneself; discard all the other noise we hear, such as the fact that the US Constitution does not mention abortion, as it’s all irrelevant because people are not property to be defined, limited or treated in any way as government may see fit.

The constitutional issue with the Roe vs. Wade decision that makes it vulnerable to reassessment is that it was based on fetal viability, a judgement that can change with advancements in science; while that may be a medical consideration, it certainly should not be a legal one. Any consideration of liberty as protected by the constitution guarantees that all human beings are the sole decision makers regarding any and all aspects of their own bodies, such as a woman’s right to consider whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

The political issue with Roe vs. Wade includes states’ rights, i.e. do the states have the right to legislate on this issue.  That has been a heated debate since the 1982 proposed amendment that provided for just that; it cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of then Senator Joseph Biden, who referenced his moral dilemma as a Roman Catholic as a reason for doing so.  However, the proposal was defeated in a Senate vote, with Biden doing one of his famous flip-flops by voting against it; subsequently, he has reversed himself various times, but for now he is in the pro-choice camp.

While there have been challenges to Roe vs. Wade over the subsequent decades, it has survived until now, assuming that the justices reported to agree with Alito continue to do so. As Chief Justice Roberts said today, while the leaked opinion is what Alito wrote, all else is rumor and conjecture until the court actually rules. While there are reports that the leaker is known, identity has not been confirmed, so the motive is to be determined.

In his piece in the Washington Post Tuesday, George Will outlined the four points of Alito’s opinion about Roe vs. Wade:

  1. It made moot all state laws and civil discourse regarding abortion and created a bitter polarizing political and social argument; it noted that about a third of the states had already passed freedom of choice laws prior to the ruling, with likely more to follow.
  2. There was no historical or judicial precedent on which it was based.
  3. The court respected precedent, but not as an absolute.
  4. The court did have a history of reversing precedents, many times for the better.

He summarized Alito’s opinion not as a reversal, but as a “turning away” toward a new starting point. He remarked that “Hysteria is the default mode of many Americans of all persuasions who engage in civic arguments. So, by late June, when the court would normally be expected to issue a momentous opinion, such people will have worked themselves into an apocalyptic frenzy.” He also noted that should the court go with Alito’s opinion, it would mean that the states would reacquire what they had lost in Roe vs. Wade, and make laws as they see fit, as some already have.

What’s missing in all this is some commonsense, specifically making it easier for women to avoid an unwanted pregnancy to begin with. Well that too has a surprising history. Republicans have repeatedly tried to make birth control pills available without a prescription; however, Planned Parenthood brings in 1.7 billion dollars in revenue annually from contraception services, and they are a big donor to Democrats. It is notable that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, is a supporter of eugenics, a racist, and believed that her organization would do a great service in limiting the black population. Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies are also big donors to Democrats, and they all want birth control pills subject to health insurance reimbursement. Surprisingly, the champion fighting against this cabal is none other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; at last something to support her on.

What’s really missing in all this is John Locke’s natural law of man owning himself. When we consider this we understand better that neither the Republican nor Democratic parties respect the fact that whether the issue is abortion rights or COVID mandates, government has no legitimate involvement. The hypocrisy of both parties shows in their respective policies regarding both these issues. Approximately 63% of all Americans, including 78% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans, support free choice. Considering the fact that the American electorate is approximately 30% Democratic, 30% Republican, and 40% independent, the scales tip with independents. However, jurisprudence is not a popularity contest as there is something far more important than that at issue.

Religion plays an outsized role in all this given the enormous power of Roman Catholicism and other Christian Sects. If you think abortion is wrong, don’t get an abortion, but it’s not acceptable to impose your religious views on others. Why should a Jew or Muslim, a Buddhist or a Hindu, for example, have to live according to your beliefs? If you don’t get this, please don’t ever use the phrase “religious freedom” again. Believe whatever you want, practice whatever you believe, but never impose those beliefs on others as that is a violation of the US Constitution and the existential liberty of all mankind. Without respecting that we fail as a society and invite the tyranny where government actually has a say in what you as a human being actually are, i.e. free or slave.

The Age of Repression

“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” George Orwell

It is amazing that the creation of a government entity can push all other news like the Ukrainian War and a major market correction off the front pages, but that happened Wednesday with the Biden administration’s announcement of the formation of the “Disinformation Governance Board”. To say that this news went viral is a profound understatement. The fumbling by White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to explain what this board would actually do showed that they were ill-prepared to discuss this, which is odd given that one would think such an issue would have been discussed in detail in order to prepare for the inevitable press coverage.

The fumbling ranged from focusing on disinformation coming from Russia, misleading messages about the US/Mexico border, human smugglers, false claims about U.S. border policy, and to counter misinformation in Hispanic communities especially. Myorkas also stated that as part of the Department of Homeland Security, the board would focus on foreign threats. Also mentioned however were the administrations concerns about American’s lack of trust in COVID policies. Responses to questions as exactly what its powers would be were studiously avoided, likely because they really didn’t yet know.

Nina Jankowicz was named executive director, which seemed to garner special attention given her political history of categorizing any criticism of the Democratic Party and the Biden administration as misinformation, adding to the perception of the board as just a partisan propaganda tool.

The press seemed both amused and confused at the same time, some noting for instance the rhythmic similarity of the initials DGB for the board to the KGB; others asking more serious questions as to the timing of the announcement given the news of free speech advocate Elon Musk buying Twitter, and the Justice Department’s recent disclosures of the content of Hunter Biden’s laptop regarding influence peddling with foreign nationals, spawning all sorts of commentaries.

One of the more telling comments was the comparison of the DGB to George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in his book 1984, which controlled the news media, entertainment, the fine arts and education, in order to change the facts to fit party doctrine. Although the comment was shared by many, I wonder who actually understood the depth of the danger for even proposing, let alone creating, such a toxic entity in a so called democracy. It is hard imagining a more horrifying way to determine what is or isn’t misinformation then leaving that in the hands of known liars like partisan bureaucrats.

Even prior to Orwell’s famous book of 1949, we have the terrifying example of the 1933 Propaganda Ministry for the Nazi Party headed by Joseph Goebbels, which eventually took control of the news media, arts, music, radio, press, films, theatre and was especially vigilant in protection against “counter-propaganda”, both foreign and domestic. For those that think this could never happen in America, then explain why a free country should ever tolerate the existence of a Disinformation Governance Board.

The immediate cause for the creation of the board at this time may very well have come about as a reaction to the Musk Twitter purchase and DOJ investigation, but the underlying cause goes back quite some time. The most alarming and persistent examples of the repression of liberty is the attack on free speech in the media and our universities. In both cases we have the bizarre display of two institutions who at one time were the most ardent proponents and guardians of this vital and cherished liberty. Now, in the name of some ill-conceived crusade against “disinformation”, any idea expressed that is judged to be harmful, inaccurate, unacceptable or contrarian must be silenced. The idea of free speech is not that everything said must be judged by all to be true in order to be heard, but that everyone has a right to be heard regardless of what they have to say. So strongly was this right held that it became part of the republic’s constitution, and even just as important a part of our ethos.

The concept that free speech needs to be a “regulated right” in order to protect democracy is an oxymoron; such nonsense is intended to make us think that liberty is actually respected by the government while it destroys it. In effect it makes free speech not a right at all, but a privilege reserved to the regulators and whatever speech it may approve of. Embracing totalitarian methods without embracing a totalitarian ideology shows that our government fails to realize that the methods are a manifestation of that ideology. As Thomas Sowell so well observed “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

By narrowing the definitions of what is acceptable speech while at the same time professing to protect democracy creates an illusion for people to feel comfortable with a status quo created to protect those in power. The stage was set for such a thing to happen at the cultural level in American society such to the extent that when people object to such intrusions on our liberty, it is openly equated with fascism, when in fact such intrusions are based on willful ignorance and/or ideological decadence.

While we hear so much about inclusiveness from Progressives, we are treated to their hypocrisy in supporting repression of free speech. How can you have a meaningful civil discourse among all citizens by excluding those you disagree with? While there have been many voices criticizing this creation of what is in effect a governance of speech, there was one that made a critical point to all, including those responsible for this atrocity, and that was Justin Amash who said “Wherever you land on the political spectrum, imagine your worst enemies in charge of the Disinformation Governance Board.”

The State of the State

“We consider it sheer arrogance to believe that people in Government know better for the people than they know for themselves.” Dwight Eisenhower

Throughout his military and political career Eisenhower was reticent to express his political beliefs, even after he left politics. One of his rare comments was the above quote on the growth of government in American society. This arrogance of government has grown enormously, together with its size, since his retirement. This has been facilitated greatly with the shift in American society away from its reverence for liberty.

America’s founding principles are based on the philosophy of John Locke, arguably the greatest political scientist of The Enlightenment. As an advocate of man’s natural rights, he wrote “All people are free, equal, and have natural rights of life, liberty, and property that rulers cannot take away. All original power resides in the people, and they consent to enter into a social contract among themselves to form a government to protect their rights.” Therein we can find the very purpose for which a free society forms government to begin with. It was this foundational principle upon which the US Constitution was constructed; it’s not what governs the people, but what governs those who govern the people. The very concept of a limited government is in order to preserve and protect liberty.

What is most disturbing about our current state of affairs is a government that overtly professes its disdain for such a concept. We have Trump’s attempt to thwart the electoral process in the 2020 election. Subsequently we have a President issuing “mandates” like a king issuing edicts, and supporting proposals to pack the court in order to assure the outcomes his political party demands. We even have a Congress professing the idea that we don’t even need the Supreme Court because it represents a check on the wishes of the legislature and the electorate.

What is actually at play here is a societal corruption of these fundamental principles by those professing to be experts in all matters political, social, economic, philosophical and educational; you name the topic and you will find an expert espousing “progress” away from those principles, which they deem to be tools of oppression and manifestations of racism. The defining of the essentials of liberty with an opposite meaning is best expressed by Orwell who once observed that “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

The “principle” under which those that identify as “Progressives” propose such things is “social justice”; this is not a definitive concept but a vague and therefore malleable catch-all for whatever the cliché of the day is trending. Should someone disagree with whatever a BLM advocate may say, they are racists, and if that someone stands firm on the basis of free speech, well that shows what’s wrong with free speech. Is this as Orwell observed stupidity, or is there malice at work? What we have is a disdain of liberty because it does not yield equality; except in regards to the law liberty can’t do so because no two people can ever be equal as each individual is different from all others, which is the basis for the very concept of liberty to begin with, the sovereignty of the individual. Of course there is the ultimate alternative to liberty known as slavery.

This phenomenon of the disdain for liberty is nothing new in America. Alexis de Tocqueville observed nearly two centuries ago that “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” It is a malignancy within the culture of American society that has led to the cancerous growth of government. With every crisis that arises, whether real or imaginary, the American people are led more and more to believe that government is a solution, despite the fact that it enables more and more corruption of liberty. It really matters little whether tyranny arises through hereditary rule, electoral process or revolution, it is liberty that is lost as the state grows ever larger. The US government has grown so large that it currently absorbs nearly 48% of our GDP; even such authoritarian states like China are less at about 33%. The Federal government employs about 2.9M people, excluding the military, while China employs about half that, again excluding the military. Further, this bloated Leviathan now has a debt larger than our GDP.

As we come out of the COVID crisis, we are now burdened with yet another; constantly needing a crisis to justify expanded power, the Ukrainian-Russian War, like the Cold War, serves statists another opportunity. President Biden, experiencing embarrassing low popularity, espouses to be a war leader to deflect attention from his incompetence. We would do well to listen to one of our country’s greatest military leaders, General Douglas McArthur, about such folly: “Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. Indeed, it is a part of the general patterns of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.”

However, there are signs of a shift in our political dynamics, some good but also some that don’t reflect well on our national psyche. According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 35 percent of Americans trust the Federal Government. This aligns closely to Biden’s approval rating, which is not all that different from Trump’s prior to the 2020 election. Also of note was the Pew Poll from last year that showed that the two major political parties each had about 30% registration of the electorate, while the independents have grown to 40%. This could be serendipity of statistics, but regardless it is apparent, and perhaps inevitable, that Americans increasingly view government negatively.

Now that’s not to say that Americans have become more concerned with the loss of liberty; it could, and likely also shows an increasing polarization of the two main parties, with many Americans troubled by that. However, as the great and sadly late Walter Williams observed “Now is not the time to pine for the days of agreeable politics. In recent decades, the US has gone through radical political and cultural transformations that are making the country progressively ungovernable. Any kind of national election from here on out will be viewed as illegitimate by the losing side due to the perceived high stakes of these affairs. No longer do America’s partisan coalitions treat each other as respectable competitors, but rather as existential threats that must be vanquished at the ballot box. As America’s social fabric continues withering and polarization intensifies, it’s only a matter of time before this kind of tension turns violent.” A very prescient observation considering what happened during the riots of 2020 and January 6th.

Ronald Reagan once observed that no government ever voluntarily reduces its size and power; however, there is a way to make that happen and without physical force, but for the American people to liberate their minds away from the parasitical nature of what is contrarily called “progressivism”. This is not wishful thinking as the power of ideas has always been understood, especially by tyrants like Joseph Stalin who famously said “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why would we let them have ideas?”

Are you serious?

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov

Ali Velshi, MSNBC reporter and anchor, recently “suggested”, whatever that means, that NATO do more than sanctions against Russian aggression in Ukraine.  When asked what that meant, his response was “Direct military involvement”. While the Biden Administration has repeatedly assured Americans that the US will not get involved with any military actions against Russia, it does continue to press the NATO  countries, particularly Germany, to cut off all Russian energy imports, the one sanction that would likely enrage Putin to use non-conventional weapons such as biological, chemical, or even “tactical” nuclear.

While Velshi is simply a reporter and not some cabinet member putting forth policy, he represents a major media player pinning for an expansion of a war that is currently confined to a limited area of Europe. Granted that Russian military tactics qualify for war crimes, but to propose that NATO entertain what would be an exponential increase of human carnage is irresponsible journalism; unfortunately, he is not alone.

In various Baltic and Eastern European NATO states there is a growing demand for various measures such as supplying Ukraine offensive weaponry like tanks and jets, and instituting a no-fly zone.  The latter is a virtual declaration of war as it would mean engaging Russian air power. It’s easy for these small nations, none of which have sufficient air power, to propose such things. Should this happen, it will not be at their cost in pilot deaths or lost resources, but likely given their proximity to Russia civilian deaths when it retaliates.

It is apparent that Russia drastically underestimated Ukraine’s defensive ability and overestimated its own military ability, especially its competency. What on paper appeared to be a war that would take a mere week to win, has become an embarrassing exposure of a once formidable war machine reduced to a gang of thugs with little training and even less resolve. With little to show for a month of war, they resort to barbarism, a sign of at best a third rate army; more the reason to beware of a wounded beast in possession of weapons of mass destruction. While Russia’s recent withdrawal from parts they invaded is called a ruse for reorganizing and resupplying their forces, it brings to mind Patton’s famous dig at Montgomery’s suggestion that he do just that during the Battle of the Bulge; he declined as he did not want to fight for the same real estate twice.

Despite Biden’s bluster that NATO is united in its resolve, the EU countries are still not buying into an energy sanction, at least not yet; the reason is simple, they can’t afford to. While the EU’s dependency on Russian energy is a dilemma of their own making, the present reality is that such an action would kill their economy, especially Germany’s, and as Germany goes so does the EU. Who can blame them; they always declined to have Ukraine part of NATO or the EU based on its corruption and authoritarian governments. That did not change with Zelenskyy as he recently declared that all political parties other than his own are suspended; as James Madison said, “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.”

As far as the US offering the EU energy support by supplying LNG, such plans are apparently more for show than substance as it would represent a small fraction of the EU’s needs. LGN is not only expensive to process, but difficult to transport. It takes specially equipped tankers to cross the Atlantic, and then you need adequate port facilities to accept it, both of which are in short supply. We would do our allies better by understanding that unlike the US they lack domestic capabilities.

While we have no way of knowing what the outcome of the Ukrainian war will be, we can only make it worse (and yes it can get even worse) by meddling in a war we don’t even have a treaty basis or security urgency for doing so. What’s curious about Ukraine is the relationship of both the last and the current residents of the White House with it and its Russian antagonists. What’s more important than even that is our vigilance and competency to avoid the refuge of violence.

Ignorance or Delusion?

“The first panacea for a mismanaged country is monetary inflation, the second one is war.” Ernest Hemingway

In a recent news conference, President Biden lashed out at reporters who questioned his huge spending policies as being inflationary. In a furious fit he said “I’m sick of this stuff!” and then proceeded to lecture them, and apparently all Americans, for thinking that way, saying that such policies actually reduce inflation. Now if such drivel came from some low level bureaucratic hack it would not have gone viral, but coming from the President and also the Speaker of the House it did; it came off as moronic, perhaps even delusional, but certainly a political blunder.

I’m no fan of the Republican Party as they have done their own share of harm through this insidious practice of inflation, but we can understand why they will make the most of this ignorance, or delusion, or perhaps both. Hard to understand in any case as even the darling of economic interventionists, John Maynard Keynes, observed that “By a continuous process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” Thanks to information technology we are witnesses to actual testimony by the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, so not “secretly and unobserved” any longer.

Powell no longer parrots the transitory narrative, but now sees the risk of “persistently higher inflation”. The flip/flop followed his confirmation as Biden’s choice for the next four year term; timing is important when you’re “data driven” so Powell morphed from inflation denier to inflation fighter. So too did Janet Yellen have to eat crow as she was worked over by congressional committees for not only supporting the transitory narrative, but seeing inflation as a benefit. What this did is expose the Biden administration to its untenable fiscal justifications, supported by monetary expansion and accommodation, for the massive spending for the green and social spending plans. As interests rates will inevitably rise, some seven hikes of at least 25BP each currently predicted, the already occult like calculus supporting such largess just doesn’t compute, even to the party faithful. With his support so undercut by reality, Biden’s frustration resolved to mindless fury.

Although an alcoholic, Hemingway curiously didn’t drink while working, maintaining that he couldn’t deal with both pleasures simultaneously. He was known for a keen insight, both in how to make a good martini and how people behaved, except of course as it involved himself. Keeping with Papa Hemingway’s observation, the second panacea of a mismanaged country is war, and we have had an awful lot of such mismanagement in our history. We are now faced with another managerial crisis with Ukraine.

I have written before about how I feel about the US getting involved with another adventure in interventionism, but the new question is will Biden be the last president to do so? I say last because if there is to be the big number three, oblivion will make Biden the last in the pantheon of fools to finally bring the end to all wars, and with it the human race.  In the past it was Europe who brought America into their endless fights, but despite Biden’s rhetoric about unity with our allies, Europe wants no part of a Ukraine in NATO, the EU, or as a contributor to their already bloated immigration populations. They support neither a no-fly zone nor an energy sanction; the former requires their participation in military enforcement, the later their economic suicide.

While I abhor inflation and war, I would rather deal with ignorance than delusion; at least with ignorance we can hope for enlightenment, but with delusion irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed that nothing, including evidence to the contrary, can convince people that what they think or feel is not true. I sincerely hope that the current administration is more ignorant than delusional.

We’ve Seen This Movie Before

“History doesn’t repeat itself, it just rhymes.”  Mark Twain

As we all learned in school the event that started WWII was Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. What was seldom mentioned is that a few weeks later Russia also invaded Poland. Russia said it had to come to the aid of its Ukrainian and Byelorussian countrymen at risk in lands illegally occupied by Poland; propaganda that is still used today.

Throughout the early 1950’s, various Eastern European countries were in political turmoil bordering on revolt against Russian hegemony in the region, Poland and Hungry chief amongst them. With Stalin’s death in 1953, Russia undertook a patriarchal posture toward its socialist allies in the region, leading to the formation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955.

However, the people in Hungry wanted more than patronizing good will from the Bear on their border. In the Hungarian Peoples Republic the situation became an outright insurrection against the Russian backed government, known as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Russia repeatedly stated that it had no intention of invading Hungry, which of course is exactly what it did and within a few weeks the revolution was over, and a Russian backed government back in control.

Then we have Czechoslovakia in 1968 with the reformist movements known as the Prague Spring. Again, promising that it had no intentions of taking military actions to bring the wayward child back in the fold, Russia held military exercises for the Warsaw Pact nations, which of course became the invading force that ended the Prague Spring.

Then there was the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. This was off script, not part of the series as it was not a country that Russia had as part of the Soviet Empire with a puppet government in place. Its reason was to support a fellow socialist country during an insurrection, i.e. an ideological intervention; this should sound familiar to America, we’ve made that mistake plenty of times. After ten years of fighting in a tribal region with no one really ever representing a government to control, Russia left with thousands of its soldiers buried there; lessons learned, don’t go off script.

Another failure was with the Solidarity movement that started in 1980 in Poland. While not an outright invasion, Russia controlled and led the Polish government in a decades’ long repression which, thanks to the shrewd manipulations of both the Reagan administration and the Vatican, ultimately failed, and was one of the main factors in the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991. Russia did not follow their own script again and that episode flopped badly.

So back on script we have the 1994 invasion of Chechnya and the 2008 invasion of Georgia, all with the same old propaganda, but these sequels played a little stale internationally by that point. The West believed it had won the Cold War and was preoccupied with the Near East with its own troublesome invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today we have another sequel back on script to this movie series in Ukraine; with similar players from central casting in Moscow, we have the Putin episode. Here we had even more warning signs from 2014 in Crimea, the years’ long infiltrations of the Donbas, the massing of 150k Russian troops along the borders, yet still, as before, the West expresses surprise, dismay and outrage that Russia did what it has always done. You can change the name, the flag, the leadership and the times, but the Bear has not changed its nature.

In 1945 we have the UN, and in 1949 we have NATO; none of these organizations has had much success with the Bear, so why do we now hear the leaders of the West clamoring for ever more sanctions, which will not only do nothing to change Russian aggression, but economically hurts its own citizens at a time when they can least afford it? Do we really think that hitting the pocketbooks of the oligarchs will incite them against Putin? We need to understand that it was Putin who created the oligarchs, not the other way around.

US politicians express disgust with Russia’s wanton acts killing Ukrainian civilians, but where was their outrage with the US doing the same in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention our support and supply of weapons for the Saudi genocide in Yemen?  These same virtue signaling leaders think that sending arms to Ukraine will change the outcome; sadly it will not and the military leaders in NATO know that. In fact, it provides Putin reasons to show the Russian people how much the West is their enemy, i.e. the friend of our enemy is our enemy. Those in Russia who think otherwise get the gulag, or worse.

We all should have a deep respect and admiration for the Ukrainian leaders and people who have resisted an overwhelming force so valiantly. However, we must understand that their future lies in the future as the present will have the inevitable but hopefully temporary outcome, unless of course Putin changes his mind and decides the price is too high; doubtful, but anything can happen.

In the meantime, the one thing that must not happen is for the NATO to go out of its own treaty and decide to escalate to a direct confrontation; that will lead to everyone losing because the Bear will go nuclear, and on that we can be sure. Ultimately, Putin will fail, but not due to anything that the West has done. It will come from the Russian people, the vast majority of whom are desperately poor thanks to the greed of the Putin regime and his oligarchs who have plundered their own nation. We must hope that having nothing to lose, they will seek to have everything to gain and rid themselves, not only of Putin, but an historical script of failed tyranny that needs to come to an end.

It’s Not Complicated

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius

The news media certainly has more than enough material lately, but if you are paying attention, we do not get much in clarity. Even something as straight forward as athletic competition in the Olympics got confusing. It seemed that everything was spinning in an incomprehensible vortex, which may explain why so many people find everything so complicated.

Modern philosophers and psychologists have a theory on this human dilemma of making things more complicated than they actually are, it’s called “complexity bias”; it essentially maintains that when faced with various explanations, or solutions to a problem, we tend to pick the most complex one in the belief that a simple explanation or solution couldn’t possibly be right. Often, we do this in an automated fashion based on beliefs that we find too difficult to challenge, which in turn creates another human tendency called “confirmation bias”, something that fits within our comfort zone of prior explanations or solutions we think worked before, so why not again, as if one size does fit all.

Take a clear headed look at what’s going on and you’ll see this very common human malady; look at the obvious, i.e. simple explanations. You may not like the answers, but that’s better than being confused about some simple things like inflation, filibuster bashing, bonds and interest rates, Russia and Ukraine….just to name a few. While of course in this world of obfuscation it’s difficult at times to see through the fog, but it’s still not complicated.

Why is there inflation? Shut down the economy and you stop production. Open the economy and demand comes back, but there’s been no production. Simple, now you have more demand than supply, so you get price inflation. Print a lot of money, as if paper is all it takes, and you erode purchasing power. Simple, now you have monetary inflation. Put the two together and it’s apparent why the CPI is now over 7.5% and still rising. We are told that inflation is “different” this time than from the Stagflation days of the past. Well it’s true we have yet to reach the 14.8% of 1980, but does that mean we wait until then before we understand that we have a problem? We did that in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so again, it’s not complicated, what we did wrong before we are doing again.

Not too long ago Republicans wanted to do away with the filibuster. Obvious, they controlled the Senate back then and the filibuster got in their way.  Now the Democrats want to do away with the filibuster. Obvious again, they now control the Senate with the VP having the tie breaker and the filibuster is in their way. Politics is not principles, it’s obvious, and so this too is simple.

Bonds, especially USTs, are debt notes. We are told the Fed is independent from the government, who confirms the chair and governors; not complicated, and no, not independent. For over fifteen years the Fed has repressed interest rates to practically nothing, and at the same time takes on debt through bond purchases with money it has the UST print up (QE 101). Not only does this fuel inflation, it pumps up stocks with massive liquidity; again, simple, the Fed creates monetary inflation. Who does this help? Well just look at how Wall Street is doing, and how massive government spending is getting funded.

Yesterday President Biden claimed that he was more than ever convinced that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. Putin says he has no intention of invading Ukraine and is in fact withdrawing troops from the border, but US intelligence says the opposite is true as more troops arrive. So who do we believe? The answer is again simple, don’t believe any of them. Until there is an actual invasion or a withdrawal of the massive Russian military buildup, nothing is certain, except one thing, and that is Russia will never give up claims to Ukraine because in more than three centuries it never has.  For the US it’s very simple as there are no security, territorial or treaty issues; so the real question is why then is the administration playing this up as if there are?  When your ratings at home are as low as they are for Biden you need a distraction. So America, don’t be distracted, keep it simple and understand that as Ron Paul cautioned “Sanctions are not diplomacy. They’re a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade.”

There are so many more examples that can illustrate this dangerous tendency in our current culture to create an echo chamber of mass and social media that seems lock stepped in a virtue signaling of just about everything, proposing a right think based on the assumption that people are best served by experts who understand the complexities far too complicated for us mere common folks. In political science, and I think in other philosophical studies, there is a term for this called “reification”, which basically describes what happens when an abstraction is treated as if it were a concrete real event or physical entity.  The counter to this is called a “heuristic” process or method, enabling someone to discover or learn something for themselves, in a “hands-on” or interactive approach, or as Mark Twain said “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” Better that Americans make their own decisions as we have had more than enough experience to do so.

We are better off keeping things simple, not allowing politics to become more like a new religion with its inherent contradictions, incomprehensible complexities and divisive characteristics. As Richard Dawkins so eloquently explained “One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.” Let’s keep it simple America and not be confused when we are paying attention.

Looking For Trouble

“When you get into trouble five thousand miles from home you’ve got to have been looking for it.” Will Rogers

Will Rogers is one of America’s most iconic figures; what he did most famously was simply to observe and comment, without rancor, but with perception and an uncanny wit. He spoke out against America ever getting involved again in conflicts like the Great War, cautioning us to avoid entanglements in foreign interventions.

It is clear that Russia will invade Ukraine; it’s not a question of if but when. It is also clear that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress favor some kind of action against Russia should they invade. As previously discussed, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, nor are there any treaties extant that involve the US in anything having to do with Ukraine. Even if Ukraine were a member of NATO, the US excluded from its signing of the NATO Treaty any military action without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war; unfortunately that has not stopped some presidents from violating that, and we can only hope this is not another occasion.

There exists no territorial or security threat to the US should Russia invade Ukraine. Please note that in my 12/10/21 post “Meddler”, I wrote “….Ukraine, which has been a part of Russia for nearly 200 years, from 1793 to 1991.” Thankfully a reader advised me that this was incorrect as first we have the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav, the 1667 Treaty of Andrusovo and then the Eternal Peace Treaty of 1686, all of which involved the end of conflicts over Ukraine between Poland and Russia. While there are many complications and subsequent conflicts with those treaties, the essence is that Ukraine has been a part of Russia for more than 300 years, longer than the US has even existed.

This is not said as a justification for Russian aggression as clearly Putin’s intentions are to have Ukraine back as part of Russia by any means necessary; it is said against American intervention of any kind as this is not our fight, and any action on our part is a violation of our principles against intervention in the affairs of other nations. If we were to intervene in what is solely a European affair, it would be yet another example of hypocrisy, and Biden would be added to the list of presidents that acted unconstitutionally in regards to intervention.

However, that is exactly what he and his administration appear to be doing.  We had about 70K troops in all of Europe prior to the recent Russian buildup along the Ukrainian border.  Late last year we put about 8.5K troops on alert for deployment to eastern NATO areas, and just yesterday another 2K. Do we really think that this is a deterrent to Russia’s plans to take over Ukraine? The Joint Chiefs of Staff have estimated that Russia has about 130K troops along Ukraine’s border; putting so few of our soldiers in that area is like putting canaries in a coal mine. You do not play chicken with a gambler that has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. Militarily, if you want a deterrent you ante up, but understand that if Putin calls your hand you will have the US in another European war.

So assume that the deterrent doesn’t work and Russia takes back Ukraine. Unless you want war with Russia, which hopefully is not Biden’s play, you are left with the threatened sanctions. How lame to threaten the Tsar with something that means nothing to him. All Putin has to do is put his hand on the gas valves that Europe lives on and NATO blinks, and you stand alone; add this to the administration’s embarrassing missteps.

While we have countless conferences between the EU, US and Russia, all we get is diplomatic jargon, threats, accusations, and heightened tensions among all parties. Will Rogers once observed that “Every war has been preceded by a peace conference. That’s what always starts the next war.” The best thing for the US to do is simply say to our European allies that this is their sphere of security and concern; they need to decide what is in their best interests and act accordingly. It’s long past a reasonable time for the US to have a military presence in Europe so they need to provide for their own security. If Ukraine represents their line in the sand, they need to divorce their reliance on Russian energy to avoid territorial blackmail. Alternatively, they need to live with what Russia wants back and move on.  

What can Americans do in order to avoid involvement in another Great War, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.? Newsweek reported today that only 15.3% of Americans would support US military intervention in Ukraine, and only 31.1% would even support military aid. Benjamin Franklin famously described that “War is when the government tells you who the bad guy is.  Revolution is when you decide that for yourself.” Perhaps there’s hope as the latest poll shows a revolution among Americans away from such disastrous policies. 

Hypocrisy

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a recent Biden press conference he spoke about his choice for a nomination of a justice to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer, and that his choice would be limited to a black woman. In making the criteria for selecting a candidate based on both race and gender, the President of the United States acted so contrary to the principles he is supposed to uphold that all his pompous words about his respect for the constitution rang hollow compared to his actions.

While it was expected that Biden would nominate someone aligned with his party, it is unacceptable for anyone to construct such exclusionary criteria that is both sexist and racist. Add to this that although Stephen Breyer had made clear over the last year that, despite the Democratic establishment’s inappropriate pressure for him to retire, he had no intention of doing so.  Yet they persisted on the partisan reasoning that given his age there was the possibility of his retirement or passing while a Republican was president, Biden needed to make his mark on the court; apparently that pressure became irresistible and as it was based on Breyer’s age, also discriminatory. Further, consider Biden’s and his party’s threats to pack the court because it was out-of-touch with where society needed it to be, despite the principle of the separation of powers isolating the Supreme Court from any such consideration save constitutional jurisprudence.

There are many definitions given to hypocrisy depending on how many dictionaries you have, but essentially what they all come down to is the act of claiming to have moral standards to which one’s actions do not conform. With all the virtue signaling that we are constantly bombarded with in mass and social media, the contradictions are the one consistency we can find. Biden’s extraordinary action to exclude all others who do not meet a racial or gender qualification is not the only example of hypocrisy we can find in the polity of American society today, but it is one of the most egregious given his position as our president and his professed belief in our civil rights. However, there is a consistency in his hypocrisy when you recall his statement during a campaign interview on radio when he said “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Racism is not limited as a partisan trait, and neither is hypocrisy.

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