We Are Almost There

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

George Orwell   1984

The memory hole pulls us forward hour by hour day by day.  It so tempting to simply flush the unpleasant things that history has left us, things that make us uncomfortable.  Even principled people fall victim to the temptation when they see the world changing around them, urging with some grand collective group think to “get on board” and join the “right side of history.”  Standing up to such pressure is not easy and I admire people like of Ayn Rand for seeing the nobility of the individual and the beauty of rational truth.  Big decisions should be made with quiet deliberation, sound judgement, and a regard for truth and perspective not mob pressures.  I have little respect for otherwise intelligent people who swallow hard and go along to get along compromising their integrity and deliberately misrepresenting historical facts.  It seems to be human nature to want to give up and give in.  The totalitarian impulse in society is strong and I fear we may one day give in to it completely because we can no longer justify to ourselves why we should fight or even make an effort. When a people lose their integrity, the will to live free and be true to themselves, the end of liberty has arrived.

As Orwell reminds us at the end of his book:

He gazed at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache.  O cruel, needless misunderstanding!  O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast!  Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose.  But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.  He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.

Money And Civil Society

“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss – the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery – that you must offer them values, not wounds – that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade – with reason, not force, as their final arbiter – it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability – and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money.

“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality – the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors.

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another – their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

“When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world?’ You are.

 “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns – or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other – and your time is running out.”

—  Ayn Rand

No further comment needed.

The Logan Act and Democratic Hypocrisy

The media has been up in arms the last week or so over Mike Flynn’s supposedly intercepted phone call with the Russian Ambassador over Obama Administration sanctions.  Also, let’s not forget that this phone call was supposedly obtained through Signals Intelligence (aren’t there rules about intercepting such calls when Americans are present?) and its release is a major felony.  But back to the main point.  Did Mike Flynn violate the Logan Act?  Well, what the hell is the Logan Act?

According to Wikipedia The Logan Act is:

The Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, enacted January 30, 1799) is a United States federal law that details the fine and/or imprisonment of unauthorized citizens who negotiate with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. It was intended to prevent the undermining of the government’s position.[2] The Act was passed following George Logan‘s unauthorized negotiations with France in 1798, and was signed into law by President John Adams on January 30, 1799. The Act was last amended in 1994, and violation of the Logan Act is a felony.

Now, can someone tell me how the hell the Democrats didn’t violate the hell out of this act in the 1970’s and 1980’s?  A quick and dirty internet search turns up the following:

From the New York Times:

MEXICO CITY, May 26— A delegation of Democrats opposed to the Reagan Administration’s policies in Central America met today with Mexico’s Foreign Minister and gave their backing to a peace initiative being promoted by Mexico and three other regional governments.

A spokesman for the group said the trip had been approved by Representative Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., Democrat of Massachusetts, the Speaker of the House, and by other leading Democrats. ”This trip is planned as one of a series of meetings on Central America,” a group member said. ”The idea is to try and find another concept to support without confronting President Reagan.”

From Wikipedia:

April 1974, [Teddy] Kennedy travelled to the Soviet Union, where he met with leader Leonid Brezhnev and advocated a full nuclear test ban.

From Forbes:

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers.

First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.

Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. … The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”

Kennedy would make certain the networks gave Andropov air time–and that they rigged the arrangement to look like honest journalism.

I wonder how many more such instances one could find if one really tried. Sounds to me like the media’s sudden self righteous indignation over Flynn’s unauthorized phone conversation regarding Obama Administration sanctions is more than a little political.  Maybe Flynn did violate the spirit if not the letter of the act but he seems to be in good company.

Lest anyone think I’m just mindlessly defending Trump, I’ll also add that if it turns out the the Trump team was having extensive secret negotiations with Russian Intelligence officials before and immediately after the election then a thorough and complete investigation should be done.  Anyone caught breaking the law (not just flirting with the Logan Act) should be fully prosecuted.

 

Fascist USA?

Seems like the word “Fascist” is being thrown around more and more since the election.  But just what the hell is a Fascist anyway?  To some it’s “whoever disagrees with me.”  To others it’s “Republicans in general.”  But seriously, what do they mean when they warn us of Fascism?  Well, it seems there is more than one definition floating around out there.  In his message to Congress regarding monopolies FDR defined it this way –

“…the first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself.  That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

His definition sounds suspiciously like an oligarchy which is “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.” I think this definition is inaccurate.

Let’s visit the writings of Mr. Fascist himself, Benito Mussolini.  Mussolini wrote an entire book on the subject called “The Doctrine of Fascism.” OK, it is short and book might not be the best word to use but you get the idea.  After all, he founded the Fascist Party.  He called it both “practice and thought” and “an organic conception of the world.”  Whoa. Sounds all encompassing to me, not at all friendly to the libertarian mind. The main takeaways are that it is anti-individual, authoritarian, realistic (as opposed to utopian) in outlook, and Statist.  It is for the individual so long “as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence.”  It opposes liberty and classical liberalism since they put the individual’s interest before the State’s interest. In essence, man is subservient to the State.  He says “...outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups..” He calls it the “giver of laws, ” the “educator of spiritual life,” and says that it should enter “in the spirits of men and there govern unopposed.”

In short, Fascism (like totalitarian Communism) belongs to the cult of the State.  In no way does this resemble the current Democratic or Republican parties in the United States.  Fascism is not compatible with individual liberty or human freedom.  It cannot allow Religion or anything else to come between man and the all powerful State.  The end result of any authoritarian system of government is war, prisons, and concentration camps. Force and terror become the only way to protect the status quo. Note that nowhere is it said to be built on racism although the two often go together.

Fortunately, the United States has a government in place that is designed to resist authoritarian impulses.  The State serves the people not the other way around.  Power is not concentrated in one man or Party.  The individual is free to act according to his conscience and worship God however he chooses.  The individual has value and is NOT subordinate to a Party, his ethnic or social group, a government, or any other mass movement.  Remember that the next time someone tells you there is no God and man is subordinate to the will of the people (whatever that means).  If there is no power higher than man then every conceivable evil under the sun can be justified by popular vote.  Our government recognizes the inalienable rights of men – rights that can’t be undone by the next election.  The people’s representatives in Congress make the laws, levy taxes, and create budgets but only as allowed by the Constitution.  Their power is not unlimited.  The President executes the laws and enforces them.  The Supreme Court keeps check on both to make sure the Constitution and the law is not violated.  It is a system built to be inefficient.  The Founders were students of history and feared tyranny.  We should be mindful of why we have the system we do before trying to radically alter it.  Our system will only work as long as it is respected by the people of the country.  The Founders recognized the need for peaceful change.  The Constitution is amendable.  The system we have is designed to protect freedom and individual liberty.  It is a good and strong system and will even survive Donald Trump. Let’s remember that the next time our outrage over social injustices reaches a boiling point.  Our system is designed to give voice to the people, allow for protest, and allow for peaceful change so that problems aren’t suppressed until they explode in revolution.  Metaphorically speaking, when the pot boils, take off the lid.  Clamping it down tighter invites an explosion.

Euthanasia For “Mental Illness” On The Rise In Netherlands

I remember years ago when people were debating the assisted suicide issue they said it would lead to a slippery slope where more and more conditions would result in euthanasia.  It was supposed to be that euthanasia would be reserved for terminal illnesses where all hope was lost and the patient was in constant pain.  Critics said euthanasia would spread beyond such conditions to just about everyone who wanted to die for one reason or another. I thought they were exaggerating.  I certainly want to reserve the euthanasia option for myself should I be in a situation of constant pain and no hope of recovery.  I can also see how euthanasia would be a merciful end to the life of an elderly person lost forever in the deepest depths of dementia from which they will never recover.  Well, now it seems the critics did have a valid point.  In the Netherlands it is being reported that euthanasia is being allowed for various mental illnesses.  In fact, a twenty something woman was allowed to end her life because of the incurable PTSD she suffered from a rape earlier in life.  According to the story:

“Whereas just two people had themselves euthanised in the country in 2010 due to an “insufferable” mental illness, 56 people did so last year, a trend which sparked concern among ethicists.”

And then there is this little gem:

“Paulan Stärcke, who will present her findings at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam Thursday, told The Telegraph that even children as young as 12 who ask to end their lives should be taken seriously.”

“Other speakers at the conference will discuss euthanasia worldwide for terminally ill children, and people who are “tired of life”.

These are exactly the less than justifiable reasons we were warned about 20 years ago.  While terminal illness is one thing (no point in letting people hang on in constant pain while waiting to die) mental illnesses are another thing entirely.  Could this girl in her twenties have been helped by some as of yet untried treatment?  She had another 60 plus years ahead of her.  Will her rapist now be charged with murder?  These are tough questions, but valid ones.  In another case a thirty-four year old woman with a three year old child was allowed to end her life because she was depressed and it was feared she would commit suicide anyway.  I’ve got to hand it to the critics on this one – we have come a long way down a dark road.  How can someone who is mentally ill still have the sound judgement to make an end of life decision?  Will the system be abused to rid the world of vulnerable or unpopular groups of people?  Do we trust “professionals” and bureaucrats to make these kinds of decisions?  This article raises so many questions I can’t think of them all.  At the very least this issue needs a lot more thought. I wonder if society even has the moral clarity to tackle this issue.  I wonder what C.S. Lewis would think of today’s culture and its priorities.  I think it’s time for a new debate on this issue.

 

 

More Stupidity On The Legal Front – Man Arrested for Nazi Dog

I should just start a whole section for stupid officials arresting people for stupid things and stomping all over the right of free speech.  Then again, free speech and liberty belong to mature, civilized people, and mature, civilized people, are in short supply these days.  But since free speech is something I care about I could not ignore it.  I was (should not have been) as surprised as everyone else to hear that a police official in the UK arrested a man because he taught his dog to do a Nazi salute during Hitler speeches.  Here is the link to the story.  That way you know I’m not making this crap up.  Detective Inspector David Cockburn of Lanarkshire CID said: “This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone posting such material online, or in any other capacity, that such views will not be tolerated.”  To which I say David Cockburn of Lanarkshire CID is a flaming idiot.  Do we really need to arrest people for doing stupid tasteless things? Is society any safer after the arrest?  Should the dog be put down now that he has turned it into a hopeless Nazi? (just kidding)  I thought we were trying to keep non-violent offenders out of prison these days.  Honestly, can’t we just rely on social ostracism and peer pressure to keep jerks in line?   Here is the real point of it all – free societies should allow people to be Nazis if they want to be.  We can shun them and protest them at every turn, but the government should not be getting involved.   Police arresting people for speaking their minds is more dangerous than letting offensive people rant on the internet.  And besides, we need to keep the prisons free for truly dangerous people – like teenagers who deface websites 😉   Remember, to keep us from living in a police state we really need to keep things in perspective.  No need to make mountains out of mole hills when we already have enough mountains.  Thanks for putting up with my own little rant.

 

Debt could cause next crash to be worse than 2008

I don’t normally write about economic issues, but this story in The Telegraph caught my attention. I’ve always wondered how Western countries could go on acquiring more and more debt without consequence decade after decade.  Continued stimulus in the form of low interest rates seemed to me to be fueling bubble after bubble in the economy. At some point it seems like people would realize that there is nothing backing up all this debt. Printed money without anything of value backing it seems worthless to me. At some point there has to be a reckoning when investors seriously assess how much all these debt backed assets are worth. My thought was that sooner or later there would be another crash and governments would be unable to throw more money at the problem and push the financial reckoning into the distant future. In short, we would have to face economic reality and it would hurt. William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee says is going to happen sooner rather than later and it will be very painful. Here told The Telegraph “”It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something.” In my opinion, this will be worse than 2008 because there are no more bullets left in the gun so to speak. The Fed and other Central Banks can’t lower interest rates forever and government’s are in too much debt to launch major spending sprees on infrastructure. China could be the catalyst that starts the collapse. Read the article and decide for yourself.

ISIS has its own encrypted chat app

Our government desperately wants tech companies to stop using end to end encryption in their apps and services without providing some kind of back door for law enforcement.  They want you to believe that terrorists are using WhatsApp, iPhones and other technology with encryption capabilities to communicate secretly.  Technologists have long said that forcing these companies to weaken their encryption won’t stop terrorists.  Such weakened encryption will only hurt innocent people while the terrorists move on to other technology.  Well, there is a story in TechCrunch that proves the point.  It seems ISIS has developed its own encrypted app called “Alrawi” in order to communicate secretly.  In order to stop this kind of communication the tech companies would have to further weaken the security and privacy of their operating systems.  The calls by government for more back doors will only grow louder and louder.  It is a race to the bottom for internet security.  Read the story here.