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Let’s Not Forget

“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.” Ron Paul

It’s a little hard to nail down the exact date for when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as it’s reported as “soon” after the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda; both September and October are given as timelines.  The official reason and goal for the invasion was to destroy al-Qaeda.  That goal was partially achieved just a couple of months later in December 2001 during the Battle of Tora Bora where the US and its allies drove al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan and across the border into our supposed ally, Pakistan. Despite its protestations to the contrary, Pakistan gave refuge to Osama Bin Laden until his death on May 2, 2011.

So nearly a decade later, both al-Qaeda and its infamous leader were gone.  Why it took a decade to do given that it only took a couple of months to drive them out of Afghanistan and into what we were told was our ally’s hands, where their leader resided for ten years before we killed him, remains a mystery. In the meantime, the US changed its goal in Afghanistan from the destruction of al-Qaeda to attacking the Taliban and setting up a puppet government under a mission entitled “Operation Enduring Freedom”; the US was now on a nation building mission, a doomed to fail one that took the US twenty years to realize. I often wondered why our antagonists like Russia and China said so little about what we were doing; perhaps they understood Napoleon’s strategic axiom that you should “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”

While there’s no excuse for the abysmal mismanagement of the withdrawal by the Biden administration, the end results were as inevitable as what we experienced in Viet Nam fifty years ago. While I agree that the administration should be called to task for the embarrassing and dangerous manner in which the withdrawal was handled, the war was already lost when we elected to become involved in the politics of war lord tribalism that, other that al-Qaeda, posed no security threat to the US.  As soon as al-Qaeda was pushed out, our focus should have been on Pakistan to show its allegiance to its allies and rid itself of the toxic element within its own borders.

To Biden’s credit he has consistently opposed the forever war in Afghanistan, as did Trump before him, but it was Biden who actually ended it, poorly managed but done. We are out finally of a black hole that drained and wasted our human and financial resources of a generation; but are we done with foreign interventions and nation building, and the wars that go with them? Well maybe not given the fact that the US runs 95% of the world’s foreign military bases in more than 80% of the nations on Earth. This is a very dangerous and wasteful policy that can only put this country in harm’s way again…and again…and until stopped, yes – forever.

Some time ago I read a book, more like a pamphlet written by a man named Garet Garrett, originally published back in 1952 entitled “The Rise of Empire”, in which he outlined progressive characteristics a nation will assume as it descends in to imperialism.  It’s well worth the read as it’s a frightening, and considering where we are today, a prescient summary of how a nation can devolve to such a state in which they employ totalitarian methods without embracing a totalitarian ideology, not realizing that the methods are the ideology. Consider what one of this country’s greatest generals, Douglas McArthur, had to say about such foolishness:  “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.” True wisdom from a man who well knew from experience what he was talking about.

If we forget these lessons from history, then as F.A. Hayek warned “We shall not grow wiser until we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.” Statism is a cancer, it eats away at the liberty, wealth, morality and good will of a nation’s people; it thrives on wars whereas a truly free nation thrives on production. To connect the dots with my prior post, consider the observation of retired Congressman Ron Paul that “It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking.”

Lost in the hysteria following 9/11 was a report to Congress on September 10, 2001 by then U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who disclosed under oath to various committees that his department was unable to account for roughly $2.3 trillion worth of transactions.  How did we forget that?!?!? Amazing what fear will do to muddle the minds even of those tasked to protect the finances of this country.  Despite continued Congressional and media follow-up, no answers other than Rumsfeld blaming Pentagon mismanagement came of this. Even by today’s standards, that is a staggering loss.

Prior to WWI this country was loathed to get into foreign conflicts, although we created our own with the Spanish American War. While the destruction of the Maine was later found to be a faulty boiler explosion, and not Spanish sabotage, it was a relatively quick conflict, but one that extended American hegemony deep into Asia and Latin America, ending years of careful avoidance of foreign adventurism. It also paved the way for Wilson’s more extensive exploits, again with fabricated causes, in a European war. Oh how statists love wars!

One recent positive development is pending legislation to limit Presidential war powers. It is embedded in our history and constitution that only Congress has war powers, and legally they may not even abdicate such powers as they had done in Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and who knows where else. It is not only our presidents who are accountable for these illegal horrors, but a national legislature lacking the moral fiber to act as the representatives of the people who elected them. They share the shame and we should call them to task to do their jobs or make way for those that will.


What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Words are supposed to have meaning; they are intended to convey a description about something or someone. They are meant to convey a clear idea of what is intended by the speaker or writer of words. If they fail in this regard, it is not the words that are in error, it is the speaker or writer. He or she is in error, is referring to a subject matter obtusely or esoterically, or is being disingenuous. To be in error is commonplace and can be as innocent as not having the correct facts at hand.  To be obtuse or esoteric may be that the subject matter is beyond common knowledge or difficult to convey. However, to be disingenuous is to speak or write in bad faith so as to mislead or deceive.

Shakespeare’s phrase above has come down to us as an expression of the simple fact that names don’t change what things actually are. It’s a poetic way of expressing Aristotle’s law of identity that A is A. This sounds like a simple and obvious idea, but the sad truth is that with all the technology available to us for clear communication we are plagued with so much obfuscation of what is empirically real.

Socially, politically and economically we are bombarded with sound bites, buzz words, slogans, clichés and other linguistic and mental contrivances that leave us numb with frustration that nothing real is actually being said. This leads to mistrust in those that speak and write disingenuously, whether that’s the media, politicians and government, academics, or even medical and health institutions. We could, and maybe should, write down a list of such things we hear and read each day, and at the end of that day read them and see what sense we can make of them without the noise from the sources.

Take for instance the meaning of being “inclusive”. The dictionary definition is a description of being broad in orientation and scope. However, that is not the intent of the word in the context of social justice; in fact it’s quite the opposite as it has become a means test to prioritize inclusion based on race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. The right name for describing such practice is being “exclusive”.

Consider the definition of “racism”, which literally is a belief that race determines superiority and conversely inferiority among humans, and is manifested by social and political norms adopted to maintain a specific structure accordingly; then consider the various policies and programs at play in the name of social justice. Whether it’s college admissions, stimulus money, vaccinations, employment, or whatever, the justifications are as racially based as that which they are purported to change. The most insidious example culturally is the proposition that all “white” people are inherently racist simply because they’re white. Apparently according to the current thesis of social justice the belief in and practice of racism depends on what race you are, which of course is categorically a contradiction on the actually meaning, but don’t dare say that or you will be accused of being racist.

Economically the current buzz word is “transitory” when discussing the topic of inflation. The word is a synonym for temporary, as in something of brief duration or a period leading to something else. In either case the word is not appropriate in describing inflation considering the fact that over the last century the USD has consistently lost value, approximately 95%, due to the monetary inflation policies of the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury, who maintain the transitory narrative. We are not told to consider that, only to consider price inflation as expressed by the CPI.  This smoke and mirrors game is predicated on the hope that we ignore the fact that price is driven by productivity, technology, supply, demand and trade, among other things; but the true cost is relative to the value of the medium of exchange. The important thing here is the issue of the convolution of words, and in this case “transitory” begs the question, what are we transitioning to? What’s really on the other side of this inflated bubble?

The political word play is equally insidious, especially given the labels the two major parties cloak themselves with. The Republican Party, founded on the consolidation of abolitionist and constitutionalist, and the protection of liberty and individual rights, is fracturing into various camps as evidenced by the Trumpians ousting Cheney who claims to represent the true GOP. Prior to that Justin Amash left the Republican Party because he believed Trump committed impeachable offenses. Cleary we will soon see at least two parties evolve out of that family feud. It’s likely that the Democrats will follow suit by eventually splitting in to some labeled entities such as “Liberals” and “Progressives”.

The funny thing about labels is that they either inform, like those on soup cans, or mislead as the examples above show. In the case of the two major political parties, this fact is humorously expressed by a tweet I recently read that basically says that like Democrats, Republicans are “big government liberals” (i.e. not liberal as in the Enlightenment sense), they just do it cheaper; perhaps a little cynical, but sadly accurate.

The left/right spectrum paradigm of political parties is poorly conceived and totally inaccurate as to defining policy or concept, so those labels are all wrong simply because the proponents of those labels are using words inaccurately or disingenuously. On the left we have “Liberal”, but not as that word defines the political awakening of the 17thC and the 18thC Enlightenment, which was the political thesis of natural rights and liberty in all aspects of life; in current times it is understood to mean support of an ever larger centralized and authoritarian government and therefore poorly designated. We also have “Progressive”, which in reality is a euphemism for socialist, which few kike Bernie Sanders will honestly profess; given the long history of failures with that political thesis, it’s more like “Regressive”. However, we’re not doing so well with the right either; what does it really mean to be a “Conservative”? What actually is being conserved? Conservatives talk of liberty, but support repression of ideas they don’t agree with, spout patriotism as getting into foreign wars of no security interest for this country, initiate the dumbest programs like the War-On-Drugs, and impose tariffs and sanctions that do nothing but make Americans pay more for less; is this what they are conserving?

Not so long ago, our nation embraced free trade as a pathway to economic growth, good will among nations and an expression of the principles of freedom. A free people will always seek to trade in accordance with the simple economic principle of comparative advantage. The two policies that both major parties appear to agree on are trade and anti-trust. Both support a trade policy based on threats, sanctions and tariffs, and both support a regulatory policy of punishing success with anti-trust legislation and law suits. In both cases it’s the American consumer who pays the price. However, note that both parties profess support for capitalism and free trade while practicing the cronyism so antithetical to these fundamental principles. If this contradiction between professed words and actions seems confusing you, it’s because you’re paying attention.

Hopefully Americans wondered as they should have about the recent CDC announcement that those that are vaccinated against COVID19 can now be “free” to resume their normal lives, as if the CDC can assume the power to be the arbiter of our constitutional rights. Such words are exactly the kind of disingenuous practices that cause many Americans to look on such institutions as bad faith actors more interested in establishing another power base than providing reliable medical and health information upon which Americans can make informed decisions, as is their right.

Nor should Americans miss the fact that it was our own governments, never failing to take advantage of any crisis to gain more power, who killed our economy with wonton disregard for our liberties and livelihoods with draconian lockdowns, who then turn around and with a wink and a nod do even further damage with relentless monetary inflation, higher taxes and more distortionary regulations in the name of an “American Rescue”; if that’s a rescue then anchors can serve as life preservers on a sinking ship.

Currently our institutions of a free press and education express ideas and practice policies so contrary to the very meaning of free speech. Historically there have been many instances in America when free speech was repressed, usually later to be corrected, but in truth not always. First, we need to dispel the notion that there is no such thing as free speech due to certain limitations. The idea that libel and slander show that there are limitations is true, but disingenuous as both of these pertain to civil actions available to all against anyone who so abuses them, but it doesn’t mean that they are not free to say what they will, only that there are consequences if what they say is false. Then we have obscenity and pornography limitations, both of which have been rightfully defeated in courts such as in cases involving Lenny Bruce and Larry Flint. Then there are the issues with sedition, incitement, classified disclosures, copyright violations, etc. all of which do not reduce free speech but in fact represent illegal activities. These are noteworthy exceptions but the exceptions do not define the rule, in this case as represented by the First Amendment.

What is most alarming is despite the long and storied history of legal battles and social movements in the cause of free speech we have today movements within mass media, most notably in major newspapers like the NY Times and Facebook in social media, representing a repression of free speech rather than the cause of a free press. Consider the term ‘fake news’, a phrase most infamously attributed to Donald Trump, so vilified by most of mass media but who now cloak themselves as the arbiters of what is permissible to say or write in the cause of “community standards” and protectors against fake news, as if we need someone to choose for us what we are allowed to hear or read; what a disingenuous convolution of terms. William Randolph Hearst once said “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed, all else is advertising.” Apparently most Americans now take that same view of our media institutions as little more than advertising as their words have simply lost a sense of reality and truth.

It’s difficult to believe that in our institutions of “higher learning” the corruption of words used to justify the repression of free speech through such thuggery as shouting down or even preventing speech that students and/or faculty find objectionable; their reasoning is that free speech is nothing more than a refuge for the privileged and therefore a tool of oppression. Now there is such a gold mine of convoluted thinking and a contradiction of words in such a sentiment that its obvious disingenuous nature would provide enough material to write a whole other post, so I’ll leave the obvious to the reader’s imagination.

Perhaps there can be another reason besides those I noted in the opening paragraph to explain the failure to use words accurately which is best expressed by Robert Heinlein when he said “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Suspension of Belief

“…a choice between the lesser of two evils is still evil.”

Consider for a moment what the real differences are between the two major presidential candidates, ignoring for the moment their personalities and underlying character, and just what they represent politically. That can be difficult given that Trump is such a narcissistic sociopath and Biden lacking in any principle other than how to play political gamesmanship; in fact it’s not difficult, but useless as they both represent egregious authoritarianism.

By all accounts, this coming election is remarkable for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most compelling being the projected turnout. One of the highest turnouts in presidential elections was in 1860 at 81.2%, with Lincoln versus, well a host of others, the complexity of the ticket too much for this post to cover. The highest turn-out to date was in 1876 at 81.8% with Hayes versus Tilden; it was also the most contentious election so far resulting in the Compromise of 1877, with the Democrats conceding the election to Hayes in return for an end to Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South; it was a time when black lives truly didn’t matter, it was all about winning – sound familiar?

Given the huge turn-out so far for the 2020 election with the mail-in option, the likelihood that the count will be more difficult to execute is a given, which will substantially delay the results, and will only add to the contentiousness. Another factor will be Trump’s apparent refusal to unequivocally accept the results should he loose, posing an existential threat to the constitutional imperative regarding the civil transfer of power.

We also have issues with the contentious environment of a pandemic, rioting, vandalism, economic suppression, unemployment, runaway debt, trade wars, seemingly endless military interventionism, cultural tribalism, scandal and investigations, all adding to a polarization obviating civil discourse and creating violent conflicts, and all during an election year; yet all we are offered is the lesser of two evils.

However, the most telling issue, especially considering the turn-out projections, is the lack of belief in the candidates. True, there are zealots for both Trump and Biden, but the apparent environment is one of acceptance of a choice of the lesser of two evils. If belief means trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something, it is sorely lacking in this election. On the Democratic side, we have a sad lost soul who seems to be influenced by whomever he last spoke to, and on the Republican side a delusional snake oil salesman whose only principle is to do and get whatever he wants at any cost, and always with other people’s money.

The American voters should not look at this situation and believe they are obligated in any way to choose the lesser of two evils; they should vote for someone else or abstain.  Either will provide them the dignity of avoiding giving their consent for one of these two clowns to disgrace the office of the President of the United States any further. Yes, one will win anyway, but we should show some level of self-esteem and respect for our right to vote by not supporting either.

Then we have all the noise about election meddling by Russia, but Russia has always meddled with foreign elections, and has been doing what they call “active measures” for centuries and are very good at it.  Social media is just the current tool at their disposal, and what they grasp, even more than current democratic societies do, is that ideas, true or false, when disseminated among the intellectually weak are more powerful than guns; it does not matter to them who wins an election as the distrust of the process is more important than the results.

Neither should we be fooled by doctrinal claims, like Trump espousing capitalism. As Justin Amash observed “For a person who claims to oppose socialism, President Trump spent a lot of time in his SOTU address touting central planning, federal intervention in nonfederal matters, and a big-government spending spree—policies that threaten our rights and undermine our long-term prosperity.” Nor should we be fooled by Biden’s proposed policies as anything more than socialist tax and spend programs with almost heart felt pleads about equality mean he has our liberty in mind.

It is a certainty that one of these two pretenders will be elected, but the reality is that a choice between the lesser of two evils is still evil. True liberty does not mean equality but free will; while that can be chaotic, you either accept that or accept authoritarianism. Trump and Biden are simply two sides of the same counterfeit coin, just different personas. The situation of having to choose between the two reminds me of what F.A. Harper said in 1949 regarding liberty that “It is of little importance whether a dictator gained his power by accident of birth, by force, or by the vote of the people.”

As to which alternative is better, i.e. voting for someone else or abstaining, it depends on what your political convictions are. If you want to vote third party, there are fourteen such candidates on presidential ballots, one with access to all electoral votes, some with half, some with just a few, but you have a wide range to choose from; also consider what message a third party vote will send depending on which of the two major candidate suffers the most in lost votes that were cast for others.

If you want to express your displeasure with a process that provides for only two likely contenders as a choice of the lesser of two evils, then abstain; remember, voting is not an obligation but a right, and also a message, and abstaining is still a message that you reject the premise of choosing the lesser of two evils.

It’s also important to note that no third party was allowed to participate in the debates on the pretext of meaningless qualification requirements, and more likely out of concern that the debates could actually provide meaningful content. The Commission on Presidential Debates is jointly sponsored by the Democratic and Republican political parties since 1987 when they took over from the League of Women Voters in a contentious coup critically denounced for its secretive “memorandum of understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate in the debates, which individuals would be panelists and what questions could be asked. The League rejected these demands and released a statement saying that it was withdrawing support for the debates because “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” That was such a prescient statement of the obvious corruption of the vital role of debates in the electoral process, a shameful suppression of free speech that even Russian meddling would be hard put to effect.

Then there is the question that if a third party candidate were elected, could they be an effective president? The answer to that is difficult as there’s little if any chance of that happening, but if it did, Congress would still be a majority of the corrupt duopoly of Republicans and Democrats who would be so adverse that such a president would be unable to get anything done; on the other hand, at least we would be better off without the government doing more harm.

As the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen recently said “Some people say it’s too dangerous to vote for anyone but a Republican or Democrat this year, but I ask isn’t this of all years the time you don’t want to repeat the behavior that has gotten us to this dangerous place?” Yes, it is!

Tell it like it is!

There are so many buzz words flying around the political debates, often with no context or real meaning, so it’s little wonder that most Americans are a little confused if not misled by what is said.  Let’s take the two most used words in the current debates, socialism and capitalism. The first thing to understand about these “..isms” is what they mean.

Let’s take socialism first.  Here we should understand that many political science and economic texts and courses in our educational system are full of muddled and contradictory definitions, but in general they agree that socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Now there are further definitions to differentiate types of socialism.  For example in the USSR and PRC there was communism, loosely defined as a totalitarian socialism wherein the state is in essence the “community”, ultimately managing every facet of a society. Then there are various European and South American versions that prefer to be called Democratic Socialism defined as having a socialist economy in which the means of production are socially and collectively owned or controlled, alongside a democratic political system of government; the problem with the latter is who actually represents these interests of a democracy; directly or indirectly, it comes down to the government, so such distinctions between these two types often lack a credible difference.

Capitalism as defined by the philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo (both of whom were actually sociologists as the term economist had yet to be defined as a separate discipline) was a natural economic system wherein a free market was allowed to function organically, providing for spontaneous interaction via trade among people, as opposed to the mercantilist regimes of most monarchies. In essence, it was seen as independent of and free from government meddling, what the French economist François Quesnay called Laissez Faire, basically meaning let it be.

Now we know from history that even the most so called free states had some degree of political capitalism, a polite way of saying cronyism, wherein the state and its power associates in business and finance colluded to game the system to their benefit, much as we have seen happen overtime in America. This corruption of the organic and spontaneous nature of a free market has been euphemistically called a “Mixed Economy” to make it a more politically correct concept; however, the damage is done as a little cancer will metastasize overtime to destroy a free market.

One of the differentiating characteristics between socialism and capitalism is that the former requires a political power base in creation and to function whereas the later does not; this is an essential concept to understand given the logic tree for true capitalism:

  1. A free society is based on the natural basic right that all men are free, starting with owning their own lives, which includes the fruit of their labor and how they use that, i.e. property rights.
  2. In order to protect this basic right against all aggression to subvert it, society needs the means to defend it.
  3. The essential role of government is to defend this basic right.
  4. To insure that this basic right can’t be subverted is the essential law that government must create and enforce as all other rights evolve from this basic right, i.e. to be a nation of laws and not of men. 
  5. This basic right and the laws to defend it require a separation of the ownership of self as defined above from all other aspects of society. 
  6. It also follows then that a basic right means all men are equal before the law; they may not be equal in industry, intelligence, productivity, or just luck, but in respect to this basic right they are immutably equal.
  7. As the basic right includes property rights, essential for a free, civil and productive society, it follows logically that man needs to be productive in order to not just survive, but to thrive.
  8. It is empirically obvious that free men will thrive, meaning they will produce in excess of need. 
  9. This excess is called capital; it’s not necessarily money but can also be tools, land, shelter, excess grain or livestock, etc.
  10. This excess creates the need and the ability to trade, the essence of an economy.
  11. Capital and trade create spontaneous interactions throughout society, seeking the most productive use organically, a functional efficiency known as division of labor.
  12. The essential word defining this system is called capitalism, the use of excess production applied for future need rather than immediate consumption, thereby providing growth of the wellbeing of society.

Socialism on the other hand requires a political power base that obviates individual liberty because it can’t afford such a luxury and survive; here’s why:

  1. As it is neither organic nor spontaneous, and does not emanate from any natural basic right, it requires the artificial and arbitrary phenomenon of political power.
  2. This political power can arise democratically via popular mandate, through evolution with gradual subversion of basic rights and subsequent imposition of rule, or through revolution replacing basic rights.
  3. There will be a plan, as there’s always a plan, to replace the natural phenomena resulting from a free economy with the structured agenda of an invented one.  
  4. Logically you can’t have competing plans within the same system so coercion is required to enforce whatever plan the current powers to be dictate.
  5. Without protection of man’s basic right, the functionality of a free market will eventually give way to the dictates of politics, which is the rule of men and not the rule of law. 
  6. Eventually such systems collapse on themselves as they are inherently unsustainable, creating the ultimate chaos, such as what happened with the USSR, and other socialistic regimes over time.  It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

The essential lesson for Americans is that you can’t have a free market without a free society. When you have the corruption of such basic rights as expressed in our constitution, you have the subversion of a free society, a political process essential for socialism to take hold. This process is chaotic, creating in America what we call a “Mixed Economy”, responsible for the boom and bust cycles we myopically take for granted, but that’s just an insidious means toward the same end.

When you hear a politician offer something for free, understand that in order for someone to get something for nothing, you have to take it from someone else; we usually call that theft, but let’s not be politically incorrect, let’s just call it socialism.