Margaret Thatcher’s Ghost Stalks The Halls Of the European Union

ThatcherWell, it sounds as if the EU has found some method of stealing more productive people’s money to keep Greece going a bit longer. I didn’t pay all that much attention to the details, honestly. It’s all a sham and show anyway, nearly all of Europe, not even excluding Germany itself soon will be in the same boat.

My friend, Jack Curtis, explained it pretty well yesterday. Here’s part of what he said.

If the E.U. elects to advance funds, Greek debt that cannot be repaid already will be increased by the advance. The E.U. will be throwing good money after bad. Weaning an alcoholic as it were, by buying him drinks. But the facade of business as usual can proceed; the Greek banks can open in the morning.

If the E.U. simply says: Pay what you owe: The Greek banks and government will be forced into what amounts to bankruptcy and collapse. The shock may well collapse the stock markets and thereby the banks elsewhere as the overinflated market values deflate, collapsing still more banks by diminishing the worth of their holdings. And reducing the wealth of everyone else too.

Margaret Thatcher’s Ghost Stalks Halls The Halls Of The Euro … | jcurtisblog.

As he explains it’s a bad omen in a worsening situation. All of Europe, including the UK, will end up in this boat, unless the Tory ‘austerity measures’ are a lot tougher than I think, and besides since they keep stalling on leaving the EU, the rest will drag them along anyway. It won’t necessarily stop there either, we here in the US have decided in the last fifteen (or fifty, perhaps) years that this leaky boat is the way forward.

It amounts to a run on the bank, not the Podunk State Bank but the big ones, the ones billed as too big to fail, which really means that when they fail they will likely take their governments with them leading to who knows what. It’s not hard to see why the politicians want to paper over the mess they’ve made, it could be really catastrophic and when that happens it often turns into a hanging party for all hands.

Sadly, all thinking people have known for basically forever that this is how it ends. What ends? The Greek government at best, the EU and it’s constituent governments, maybe, in the worst case, western civilization. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Kipling said it over a hundred years ago.

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four—
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire—

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

But maybe that is too complex for those that think themselves fit to rule us. A few years ago Maggie Thatcher put it more succinctly.

“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
Margaret Thatcher

She also wisely noted, as Jack reminded us:

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

 

 

Forecasting the Future

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanOne of the many secondary duties I do in our business is strategic planning and how it affects us. That might mean that should we buy a new truck, a used one, or let some customers wait, because an electrician just isn’t much good standing around in the shop, he has to get to the job site with his tools.

A service truck these days costs something over $100.000, so you think about it fairly long and hard, particularly if you are hiring new people to put in it. It will last from about three years to seven or eight, so it has to pay for itself in that time. That’s pretty much how we go about deciding whether it is worthwhile to expand.

Frankly in the last seven or so years, it’s simply been too risky to assume anything, and so we, like almost all business has simply tried to get by on what we already have. I know that we could write enough business to support the truck, but the electrician, well, to be honest, I can no longer even guess what he’s going to cost me in five years, because the rules change so much and so drastically all the time.

Part of it is the general economy, part of it is the health care mess that Washington has made, part of it is the work rules that OSHA insists on, and make some operations nearly impossible, part of it is whether the clients are still going to go ahead with their plans, because they’ve all got these same concerns.

That’s us, a little contractor out here in Podunk, Nebraska. I haven’t a clue if we’ll even be in business at this rate in five years, let alone growing. there’s just too many variables. so whatever I decide on this kind of this is basically a SWAG (Scientific Wild A$$ Guess).

Now multiply that by (at least) several trillion variables and you have the problem with forecasting climate change, man-made or not. See the problem with it. The advocates are sure both that the climate is warming, and that it’s man’s fault, particularly CO2 emissions. I can’t say it’s impossible, and I can say it would be a good idea to reduce them, if it can be done at a reasonable cost.

See the problem? In that paragraph, there are at least 4 variables that I don’t have the answer to, and I’m not sure anybody else does either. And the kicker is that they want to spend at least several trillion dollars solving a problem that may or may not exist.

That’s why it’s all government money, not private investment. Nobody who has to answer for the money they spend is going to make this kind of a bet, only those that play with other people’s money, and are unaccountable. You would be wise if you read that as the government. then you add in all the university researchers, crony capitalists, and plain old crooks, who all (every single one) have lobbyists who stand to lose money, if these projects don’t go forward, and you have Leviathan’s juggernaut going downhill (or maybe over the cliff).

Nobody but the almighty can predict this stuff, all we can do is try to react. And here’s the real kicker. What new invention will make all this Stürm und Drang obsolete next week? Remember New York City had a terrible pollution and health problem a hundred years ago, from horse dung, the automobile solved it, even though it created other problems. Technology is like that.

We solved the air and water pollution problems that we had when I was a kid (more or less, anyway). Mostly we exported the pollution and the manufacturing jobs to Asia, now the air is pretty good here but one can hardly breathe in China. It’s fixable but, no one, not even us, is willing to pay the price on everything we buy at Wal-Mart to fix it.

Answers? Frustrating as it is, for you and me both, I haven’t got any. All we can do is live our lives, thoughtfully and perhaps a bit more frugally than we have been. You know, be a bit more efficient, combine trips, carpool, keep your car another year, that sort of thing.

Will it be better next year? I don’t know that either. But I do know that if we leave the creative types in our midst free to innovate as they have over the last five hundred years, it’ s a virtual certainty that it will be in fifty years. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Mr. President, You Have One Job

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usually called a “standard” in official U.S. government terminology). It is defined in Executive Order 10860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In essence, the President of the United States has one job: to protect the Republic from all enemies, foreign and domestic. So a year and a half before we hire a new guy or girl, how are we doing?

I’d say not good. There are many things wrong, the government seems to have lost its way to the point that it cannot tell the good guys from the bad ones, the productive from the moocher, the anarchist from the fascist, in essence, good from evil.

Yes, I did say good from evil. But understand this, it’s not supposed to be the President’s job to help you get a degree, let alone a useful one, nor to make sure you don’t starve because you haven’t found a job. Those things are your job, not is. If you fail, it is your problem, along with those who were foolish enough to depend on you. You don’t want to be a burger flipper that’s commendable, learn a marketable skill, and you won’t be. It would help if the government would get out of the way enough for productive people to be productive.

It would also help if the government would get out of the way enough for the health care industry to provide health care, instead of filling out forms for Leviathan.

But in a sense, none of this is the President’s primary tasking. That is, as it always has been to protect the Republic from foreign enemies. And in that the administration has failed, utterly.

As the linked article says, to be safe one needs some combination of raw power, respect, admiration, and fear. No one of them will really work. And that’s where the US is failing. Raw power is the one we have, but since we are unwilling to use it, it no longer matters. Thousands of tanks in a tank park at Fort Hood are an interesting (to some, anyway) artifact, not a symbol of power. Those same tanks rampaging down ‘Thunder Road’ in Iraq are an unmistakable sign that one is extremely unwise to poke at the Eagle, overmuch.

Notice anybody refraining from that poking lately? Yeah, me either. Here’s why.

The United States is no longer a serious country.

Now, by this I do not mean that America is no longer a super-power. By any gross indicator of strength, the United States is as powerful as it’s ever been, perhaps more powerful than at any time in its history. It has a massive, highly productive economy, a military second to none, and an alliance that dwarfs all possible competitors. On paper, it’s still the only super-power on this planet (or on any other that we know of, so far).

But the status of a great nation is built on more than raw power. It includes intangible qualities like respect, admiration, and, yes, fear. We don’t need all three of them; no major power does. But we need at least one of them at any given moment, and right now, we’re bottoming out in each of these measures. President Obama may insist that America is now “the most respected country on Earth”—a claim even the normally more forgiving folks at PolitiFact rate as only “half-true”—but the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese clearly disagree, and for good reason.

The Chinese hack of the Office of Personnel Management is the most recent, and most obvious, example of how our status is going down the drain. This is a disaster of unimaginable proportions. The intelligence damage, including security-clearance information, will last for decades. (I, of course, am one of the millions of federal workers waiting to find out if my files are now in Beijing.) Almost as shocking as the size of this breach, however, is the fact that no one seems to care very much, including the Chinese, who have shown no concern at all.

An Act of War, Ignored

In any normal world, a super-power would not tolerate this kind of an attack. Perhaps more accurately, a true super-power would never have to endure such an attack in the first place, because other nations would be loath to engage in such a direct act of open hostility. States do lousy things to each other all day long, but the wholesale and brazen theft of personnel records is a different kind of espionage. The scale is so vast that it is a direct challenge to the United States of America.

Countries, as a rule, do not do whatever they can do, they do what they think they can get away with.

Contunue reading: America, The Unserious Super-Power. Emphasis mine.

Seems to me when saudi Arabia and Israel find that they have more in c0mmon with each other than they do with theUnited states, something has goe deeply wrong.

We are pretty much stuck with this until 20 January 2017, but we would be perhaps wise to start thinking ait now. And keep it uppermost in our minds as we think about a new prsident.

Deja Vu All Over Again: 1968 Edition

Photo portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson ...

Photo portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office, leaning on a chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, not really. We all know history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it surely rhymes. And so it does here, as we have the most completely failed presidency since Lyndon Johnson’s, and no, I haven’t forgotten Carter. Mired in a foreign war that it dares not lose but is afraid to win, having torn the country apart with its dreadful domestic policies, the Obama presidency is simply floundering.

And perhaps worse, it continues to tear it own party to pieces. If like me, you remember the 60s, likely what you remember more than anything else, his how the Democratic Party turned on itself. It only recovered because the Republican Party shortly did the same thing under Nixon.

Understand, I’m pretty much of an ideologue, and pretty consistent, but that is not where governance happens. Governance happens somewhere in the middle, neither far left, nor far right. In a number of ways this is the legacy of England and the common law, of which we’ll speak more soon, but it is so, and it’s why no English Speaking country has ever succumbed to dictatorships of either the left or the right.

Noah Rothman wrote about some parallels the other day in Commentary, it’s pretty good reading.

Superficially, the parallels between the issues that will likely to come to dominate the 2016 presidential election and those of another election year, 1968, are eerie.

Abroad, Americans have grown uncomfortable with the president’s halfhearted conduct of a necessary but unloved war. It has become inescapably clear that the tempo of operations is dictated by domestic political concerns rather than strategic considerations in theater. Internationally, a terrible ideology diametrically opposed to Western democratic ideals appears to be gaining ground, attracting support in unlikely corners of the globe, and exporting terrorism and insecurity into the heart of the West. And at home, public fears about the breakdown of order in America’s urban centers and the relationship between law enforcement officials and the public they serve are approaching the forefront of voters’ minds. This presents Republicans an opportunity they would be wise to exploit, but it would be a mistake for the party to think it can simply run the next Richard Nixon and win the White House.

When voters cast their ballots in 1968, their apprehension in regards to accelerating urban violence was palpable. In the four years that preceded that election, rioting in Watts, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New York City, Detroit, Newark, and even right outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago tore at the nation’s social fabric. Today, urban and race-related rioting has again come to occupy American minds as places like Ferguson and Baltimore erupt in self-defeating, inchoate property destruction and violence. Some believe that these riots are a portent of things to come, and the Long Hot Summer of 1967 will recur in 2015.

There are indeed signs that it could all happen again, and that’s very sad. In many ways, we have figured out why 1968 happened, and we know that it killed whole cities, the main one being Gary, Indiana, which when I was a child, was a very good shopping town, if you didn’t want to go all the way to the Loop. Now it makes Benghazi look like a tourist destination. Admittedly there was more than one factor there, the social factors he talks about but also the suicide of the American steel industry. It is also when Detroit began to break down, other cities, like Baltimore, which had a more divergent industry base, managed to survive, although I think none of them thrived.

Today, as a likely result of the left’s demonization of American police, urban law enforcement officials are unable or unwilling to perform the necessarily risky work of policing urban environments. “Violent crime — killings, robberies, rapes and assaults — is rising in half of the 10 biggest U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, where the rate is up 25 percent,” NBC News reported. “Murders are up in four of the biggest cities, most notably New York, the nation’s poster child for crime reduction.” Baltimore has experienced its deadliest month May since1972. “Meanwhile, arrests have plummeted since April’s unrest in Baltimore, with only 1,177 people arrested so far in May compared to 3,801 in the same month last year,” the Baltimore Sun revealed. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson called the spike in violent crime the results of a “Ferguson effect,” and blamed his city’s 17 percent hike in violent crime and 25 percent spike in murders on their inability to conduct proactive policing operations.

There’s little to add to that paragraph is there?

It’s important to note yet again though, that when these riots are fomented, we all know, or at least we should, who gets hurt. It’s not me sitting out here in rural Nebraska, it’s not the politicians in Baltimore or Maryland, or Washington, any price they pay is minor and temporary. The news media actually gains from it as do the race hustlers like Al Sharpton, who have built a lucrative career on this stuff.

So who gets hurt, the largely defenseless people who live in these war zones, and haven’t the resources to flee from them. In other words, the very people the Democratic Party purports to represent, its other groups place into mortal danger, from violence, and from economics for their private gain. Letting people talk you into (and helping you to) burn down your own neighborhood just isn’t going to fix any of your problems.

And this as well:

Republicans would do well to note that they are concerned more with the preservation of black lives and livelihoods than realizing a Marxist revolution fantasy at the expense of American minorities.

 

It’s 1968 All Over Again | Commentary Magazine.

OF MG, and Lotus, and Jaguar, and Chevy and Dodge

1953_mg_td-pic-7992610729001336577I don’t know how many of you became fans of Top Gear, the UK version, I never really got into the US version. The UK version could perhaps be best described as ‘quirky’. In truth, it was a good bit like a bunch of drunken teenagers playing with their dad’s quarter of a million dollar cars on TV.

Yes, there was some real information conveyed but mostly it was about how fast you can wear out a set of tires. That’s fine, I remember those days fondly, myself, and in many ways that’s what it was about.

The lead presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, whom I gather had much to do with reinventing the show as a ‘bloke show’ as I described above, actually is a fairly intelligent guys, and a British patriot as well. He has a show out about what happened to the British car industry and it’s pretty good.

Like most guys my age, I grew up loving cars, especially those ones with names like Charger, GTO, Cutlass, Camaro, or pretty much anything with a bowtie combined with the letters SS. It was a good world, cars were reasonably priced, and gasoline was about a quarter a gallon. Then the EPA and Arabs showed up and the party ended, and much else besides. When the exhaust recommendation made almost all cars pretty much into boxes as exciting as mom’s washing machine, most of us went to trucks, and that is about the only reason that the US makers survived. Nobody else in the world seems to be able to make a proper pick-up, only Toyota even came close.

But Britain was different. My first encounter with a British car was an MG TC (or maybe TD) when I was in college. It was slow, rough riding, ridiculously small, colder than a witch’s body part encased in brass, completely unreliable, and leaked like a sieve. You know, something else, I loved that fool thing, if dad would have let me, I’d have bought one myself. The thing is, the one I drove, it belonged to a friend, was about a 1960 model, of a pre-war car, and very few changes had been made. It got its start here when some of them came home with our soldiers, next best thing to a British bride, I think. :)

Then somebody showed up with a Lotus, it was all of the above, except slow. My biggest trouble with it was, in fact, that at 20 years old or so, I could just about, almost, get into the fool thing. The one that was around was bright yellow. We called it ‘arrest me yellow’, in fact, and the car was nicknamed the Screaming Yellow Zonker, and it was very apt.

Then like us all, I went to work and mostly drove Chevys and Dodges, and maybe an occasional Buick. They weren’t bad, really, for appliances, but nobody ever called a LeSabre a screaming yellow zonker.

Our nanny state pretty much made it too expensive for almost any interesting car to be sold here, and if it was, it was so compromised by regulation, that it wasn’t worth it anyway, that’s why we got aberrations like Mustang IIs, there wasn’t anything even close to reasonable.

Apparently Britain was a bit smarter, which wouldn’t have been hard, because all those interesting cars kept getting built and sold. Not all were British; Renault, Fiat, Ferrari and such kept on, you just hardly ever saw them in the US. We got what GM wanted, and we the customers were increasingly irrelevant.

In any case, the Brits had/have trouble with the auto industry as well, and Clarkson does, I think a fair job at describing what its problems were that pretty much killed it. It’s still unfolding here, but our auto industry (and many others as well) are following the same path, so this is kind of a prophecy of what the future will bring here as well, if we don’t change our ways.

Enjoy the video, in any case.

Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42This is quite interesting, and a fair read of where our society/government is trying to go, and why. It also goes into some detail as to why if we are wise, we probably don’t want to go there. By Joel Kotkin writing in The Orange County Register.

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”
But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Like some progressives, Kuttner sees the more authoritarian model of China as ascendant; in comparison, the U.S. and European models – the latter clearly not conservative – seem decadent and unworkable. Other progressives, such as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, argue that big money has already drained the life out of American democracy. Like Yglesias, he, too, favors looking at “other political systems.” .
. .
Progressive authoritarianism has a long history, co-existing uncomfortably with traditional liberal values about free speech, due process and political pluralism. At the turn of the 20th century, the novelist H.G. Wells envisioned “the New Republic,” in which the most talented and enlightened citizens would work to shape a better society. They would function, he suggested, as a kind of “secret society,” reforming the key institutions of society from both within and without.

In our times, Wells’ notions foreshadowed the rise of a new class – what I label the clerisy – that derives its power from domination of key institutions, notably the upper bureaucracy, academia and the mainstream media. These sectors constitute what Daniel Bell more than two decades ago dubbed a “priesthood of power,” whose goal was the rational “ordering of mass society.”
Increasingly, well-placed members of the clerisy have advocated greater power for the central state. Indeed, many of its leading figures, such as former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies – subject to pressure from the lower orders – to credentialed “experts” operating in Washington, Brussels or the United Nations. Often, the clerisy and its allies regard popular will as lacking in scientific judgment and societal wisdom.

Unlike their clerical forebears, this “priesthood” worships at the altar not of religion but of what they consider official “science,” which often is characterized by intolerance rather than the skepticism traditionally associated with the best scientific tradition. Indeed, in their unanimity of views and hostility toward even mild dissent, today’s authoritarian progressives unwittingly more resemble their clerical ancestors, enforcing certain ideological notions and requiring suspension of debate. Sadly, this is increasingly true in the university, which should be the bastion of free speech.

I find that there is a lot of truth in this concept, unfortunately like any other closed society, it breeds corruption. Who hasn’t noticed amongst this ‘elite’ a huge amount of influence peddling, not mention pandering, to obtain funding. In Wolf Hall, we watched as Thomas Cromwell curried favor with Henry VIII, do we not see the same process underway (for quite a while now) in Washington?

The killer “app” for progressive centralism, comes from concern about climate change. A powerful lobby of greens, urban developers, planners and even some on Wall Street now see the opportunity to impose the very centralized planning and regulatory agenda that has been dear to the hearts of progressives since global “cooling” was the big worry a few decades ago. This new clout is epitomized by the growing power of federal agencies, notably the EPA, as well state and local bodies of unelected regulators who have become exemplars of a new post-democratic politics.

Of course, this is in large part the model presented by postwar Europe, and we are watching as it demonstrably fails, which makes it less and less likely to be a model we should follow. Most likely the free-est country in Europe is the UK, not least because they share our suspicion of government (although it is not nearly as virulent). But the UK has, since 2008, created more jobs than the rest of Europe combined.

The fly in the ointment here, of course, remains the electorate. Even in one-party California, local constituents are not always eager to follow the edicts of the nascent “new Republic” if it too strongly affects their lives, for example, by forcibly densifying their neighborhoods. Resistance to an imposed progressive agenda is stronger elsewhere, particularly in the deep red states of the Heartland and the South. In these circumstances, a “one size fits all” policy agenda seems a perfect way to exacerbate the already bitter and divisive mood.

Perhaps the best solution lies with the Constitution itself. Rather than run away from it, as Yglesias and others suggest, we should draw inspiration from the founders acceptance of political diversity. Instead of enforcing unanimity from above, the structures of federalism should allow greater leeway at the state level, as well as among the more local branches of government.
Even more than at the time of its founding, America is a vast country with multiple cultures and economies. What appeals to denizens of tech-rich trustifarian San Francisco does not translate so well to materially oriented, working-class Houston, or, for that matter, the heavily Hispanic and agriculture-oriented interior of California. Technology allows smaller units of government greater access to information; within reason, and in line with basic civil liberties, communities should be able to shape policies that make sense in their circumstances.

This is, of course, nothing less than the federalism the founders designed into our system, which wasn’t new, even then, the catholic Church calls it subsidiarity, although it, like politicians, has always had trouble practicing it. In the eighteenth century as in the twenty-first, America is simply too large to be governed by an elite, centered in the capital, let alone by a clerisy without the requisite skill to understand even the concepts of what most people do.

One possible group that could change this are voters, including millennials. It turns out that this generation is neither the reserve army imagined by progressives or the libertarian base hoped for by some conservatives. Instead, notes Pew, millennials are increasingly nonpartisan. They maintain some liberal leanings, for example, on the importance of social justice and support for gay marriage. But their views on other issues, such as abortion and gun control, track closely with to those of earlier generations. The vast majority of millennials, for example, thinks the trend toward having children out of wedlock is bad for society. Even more surprisingly, they are less likely than earlier generations to consider themselves environmentalists.

They also tend to be skeptical toward overcentralized government. As shown in a recent National Journal poll, they agree with most Americans in preferring local to federal government. People in their 20s who favor federal solutions stood at a mere 31 percent, a bit higher than the national average but a notch less than their baby boomer parents.

If so, and I tend to agree, they may well save us all, simply by thinking for themselves, and acting in their own self-interest. Because I think it self-evident that being ruled by a distant, connected (to each other) is not in our best interest, either individually or as a society.
Hat tip to Gene Veith at Cranach, The Blog of Veith

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