16 August 2010

In regards to that Islamic 'cultural center'

In an effort to get the idea of 'cultural sensitivity' across, if those who ascribe to the religion which a violent and extremist sect of same has killed thousands in a cold blooded act of Private War, then the answer to such extremism and outreach to the community is not a 'cultural center' 13 stories tall.

Actual 'cultural sensitivity' would involve a 13 story wall with the names of the victims of 9/11 on it and a small non-denominational area for prayer and meditation set up under it.

That is how you reach out to those who have suffered injury and a true demonstration of your willingness to give everyone sanctuary to reconcile themselves with that event and that loss.

America is used to that sort of 'cultural outreach': they are called Monuments To Our Beloved Dead.

To enshrine a memory you create a shrine for all and put the people who made the shrine down in tiny letters on a small plaque off to the side so as not to intrude on the memories.

That does take 'cultural sensitivity' to realize that.

Its lack is evident.

13 August 2010

Fiscal Conservatism's Social Roots

Why is there a difference between Fiscal Conservatism and Social Conservatism?

Social Conservatism puts forward that a defense of culture is necessary to sustain the Nation, as a whole, and that a culture firmly rooted in its past and abiding belief in the Divine will come to good ends.  Thusly it is the contribution of the individual to society that upholds that society and creates a common values space for a strong culture.

The Progressive Era began with strong attacks on the roots and foundations of the common culture of the United States by pushing concepts that the Declaration of Independence was not a statement of mankind and the right of the individual to be individual, but a passing list of grievances with some hyperbole thrown in to make it sound good.  That is overstating the case, of course, but the idea that those firmly established values in which the individual is paramount to creating society, and then government is created to ensure the safety of that society and all individuals within it in a Nation was and is the basis for The Enlightenment and moving to Westphalian Government.  By attacking the division between Church and State by, on the one hand, belittling religion through such things as Darwinian concepts mis-applied to society, and, on the other, by seeking to put government funds and their strings into religious affairs, the Progressive movement has sought to shift the base of religious self-responsibility to one of group responsibility.  From that the individual no longer can seek personal salvation through a relationship with the divine, but is relegated to seeking the impossible salvation of everyone, simultaneously.  With government funds come government directives so that the Peace of Westphalia is broken as government, yet again, encroaches on the divine to use churches to preach the gospel as the State wants it preached.

Success in doing these things has led to Social Conservatives coming to view the State as an arbiter of society and that if 'good' and 'moral' legislation can be passed then society will be 'healed' by that.  At taxpayer expense, of course.  This is the exact same attitude taken by the Progressives as they, too, wish a 'perfect' end state of society, and that is to be enforced by government.  Unfortunately you cannot legislate morality, nor ethics, and the very act of having government decide what are 'good' choices for an individual to have, the less leeway an individual has to make the right choice out of conviction and, instead, make it out of fear of being convicted.  That is not uplifting the moral judgment capability of the individual, but making him or her fear the lash of that Punisher we call government.  Making a 'right choice' out of fear without regards to the morality of that choice is an immoral precept, and a debasement of our understanding that individuals are fit to judge, for themselves, what is good, moral and upright and what is not.

This goes far beyond 'abortion' or 'gay marriage', but to the heart of things like President Bush (43) and his outreach to religious institutions with government funds, and to things like Gov. Huckabee's attempts to place his personal diet upon schoolchildren while he was in office.  Social Conservatives are not adverse to using the power of government to put their views across and give them the power of law in doing so.  Thusly, the actual immorality of abortion, for individuals, is given first place, while the much larger immorality of the government having any say in this decision is put far off the stove so that it isn't even on a burner.  By putting forth that the decision of Roe v. Wade is 'wrong' and then only addressing the results of the decision (often without reading it, and I would claim that most people involved in the protests have not actually read that decision) the point of government intrusion to a personal, private, moral, ethical and family situation isn't even talked about.  Which is worse: the actual decision or the tacit acceptance that government at the National level can decide this for everyone in the Nation?  It is by that tacit acceptance of government coercion that allows the idea that government can have an outreach to churches and religions, that it can enforce obscene concepts of borrowing and lending, and that it can dictate to children what they will eat and via the strings on federal funds, what they will learn.

The source of bad decisions is not the Courts, per se, but the acceptance that the Courts actually can decide these things.  If you only go after the decision and not the root cause of it, then you become a de facto Progressive who sees the Court system as a legitimate way to 'reform' society via the fiat of government.


Now lets look at fiscal conservatism and its basis in society.

Fiscal Conservatism is based on the idea that personal liberty leads to unequal outcomes of work and that men gain in proportion to the skills they have, their workmanship, and the relative value of what they create.  Thus it is a personal responsibility system that devolves upon happiness: the idea that one can make their way through life by crafting circumstances and the fates via their personal abilities and outlook and prosper in accordance to how well they do that.  In this view of the world it is incumbent upon the individual, just as it is in Social Conservatism, to build society, but here it is done via the work ethic, the concept of having moral obligation to one's neighbors, and to ensuring that one's family is cared for and benefit from the fruits of one's own labors.  Morality of decisions, then, are left up to the individual and they can then practice as they wish either by using a fraction of their earned value (their wealth) or in direct donation of their time and energy to causes they support.  To uphold society, then, one must uphold oneself, first via the means of learning valuable skills and then applying them through one's life so as not to be a burden to others.  Society is not an other-oriented paradigm in that the uplifting of society is done directly through the direct support of institutions or via directly working towards good ends (caring for the sick in hospitals, as an example).  Thusly you do not depend on others to lift your social burden for you but, instead, work with others to hold those social burdens in common and address them together as individuals.

Taxation is recognized for those things that are necessary to support the infrastructure of the State or Nation so that individuals can accomplish good works, and that it is a framework, only, and not the actual good works, themselves.  The attacks of Progressivism to twist the moral values of large amounts of society to invest the welfare of individuals as a purview of the State has meant the diminution of individual power to contribute to society and has left only direct time contribution as an untouched venue (so far, although this Administration wishes to change that to be State oriented also).  To do this the apparatus of the State, once a framework of common law, has now shifted to become a redistributive power so as to tax those who work and benefit via such work in good proportion with their skills and fate, and take that wealth to be applied by the bureaucratic State to the 'uplifting' of the poor, sick, etc. via government handouts.  Unfortunately this adds an expensive middle-man to the proposition and reduces the actual leverage that individuals exercise by finding lean charitable institutions to direct their funds to.  And because these are put into the political venue, they are prone to the corruption of politics and the slow shift from equality of application of the law to an unjust system of equality of outcome regardless of actual circumstances of the individuals involved.  That is a form of prejudicial law in that there are prejudices add into the law aimed to remove the equality of protection for all citizens and to benefit a segment of the population at the cost of others, who are usually in a minority.  If you over-tax the top 1% to benefit the bottom 10%, then what is that but a punitive form of law making via the tax code and then having government take the middle-man's cut and apply bureaucratic rules to the needy?

That is immoral on its face.

Fiscal Conservatism aims at moving the structure of government back to its framework ideals, and remove it as the meddling middle-man (and skimmer off the top) and allow the wealthy, the middle class and even the poor to contribute to society as is within their means and ability.  Money is not everything and a very rich individual spending an hour tending to the sick is exactly equal, in all terms you care to name, to a poor person doing the same work.  Changing a bedpan is changing a bedpan, and there is no distinction in direct contribution of time to do so no matter what your other social status may be.  The affluent have more to spend, yes, and they have often donated large amounts to universities, schools, libraries, theaters, and other civic venues that could not get such funds via normal means.  When those funds are taxed away, the end products also start to die away with them, and charitable institutions based on personal wealth of individuals or families who endow their money to that institution then start to become less prominent on the landscape of society.

The values of thrift, work ethic, free exercise of liberty and personal responsibility for oneself, one's family and directly to one's society would appear to be the basis for all of 'Social Conservatism'.  When individuals need to make the moral choice of who to donate their time or funds to, they must come to understand their place and role in society, and then apply themselves as their understanding tells them to do.  That cannot be taken from the individual, and no amount of legislation can change that basis for personal morality and ethics to be exercised, save to stunt them, diminish them and thusly impoverish the individual not only in wealth but in those very morals and ethics necessary to create a good society.  From this view the disease of expanded government requires something that is not a mere symptom, but the feedstock of it: taxation.

You cannot have an oppressive government if it is kept small, limited, and on a starvation diet.

Doing so then gets rid of the symptoms in which the government sees fit to rule over public morals and ethics, as it will not have the expansive power to misuse, nor will it have the ability to enforce rulings that go against the public's will.  When the public controls government and keeps it in fear of retribution by the public, liberty is ascendant and people learn to make good choices for themselves and, by that, for society, by application of their happiness to those ends.  To get to that point requires a major roll-back in not just government but in our understanding of the role of government and our relationship to it, so that government understands it cannot dictate our morals, ethics and our relationship to each other and the Divine to us via the law.  Any such law is immoral and it is unethical of lawmakers, executives and the courts to enforce such laws that do not place all individuals equally before justice and the due process of law.  It is the due process that is corrupted to get 'fair' ends which gives us unfair means and inequality of statutes to get there.

I would put forward the proposition that Fiscal Conservatism is the rawest, nastiest, cleanest and keenest form of Social Conservatism around as it closely identifies the power of the individual as that transformative power within society that is the basis for building public morals and expectation of ethical behavior, and that government is merely an equal arbiter to ensure the safety of society and to treat everyone within it equally regardless of race, color, creed, social standing, wealth, or any other thing.  Goodies and 'good things' are not given to government to do beyond the safety of the Nation and all of the citizens within it via equality of due process and law which is the very best we can ever expect from any government.  That which governs least allows the greatest liberty to be used by the people, and that which governs most enslaves the people to be followers of government as it encroaches on every aspect of life to become totalitarian.  It becomes the totality of your life to serve government and your liberty is squelched to its service as it dictates your life to you for you to lead to its benefit.

Getting rid of this concept requires ending excessive taxation, rolling back the powers that government voluntarily assumes as a 'good thing' that are not given to it, and that the minimal remainder, at the National level, is then starved into compliance and given hard, fast and deep representation from the people in its most diverse form so that there are hundreds, if not thousands, that must get agreement for anything to be done within government, ever.  You get power moving away from central, National government and down to the States and localities by that process, and by increasing representation you also start to fix those levels by making it harder for them to encroach upon your liberties.  That will get you the end of meddling courts and politicians looking to peddle soft tyranny because it sounds good to a limited number of representatives that they can game, easily.  If you are only arguing over outcomes and accept the process, then you agree to the tyrannical nature of government that is being pushed upon us.

And there is no good that will ever, not once, come of that.

09 August 2010

Dry Land

Mortgage paid off: Check.

When you own your own home and have paid it off in full, you are not 'underwater' nor even treading water.

You have reached dry land.

30 year mortgage taken out in 1993.

I do not like being in debt to anyone.


And I mean that, thoroughly.

08 August 2010

Public employee funding problems

I am a disability retired public employee.

Just so you know.

Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker has a post on Two Americas: The Reality which goes into the problem of public employee pension funds and the budget busting trends that were put into place over the last number of decades.  This includes such things as giving a fully retired employee not only their highest of the last three to five earning years (base pay) of which you get a percentage of that, but also things like Cost of Living Adjustments, healthcare coverage, and all sorts of retiree benefits that require a lot of money as the age for which one can retire has gone down due to the 2% rule.  The 2% rule (on the federal side, your local situation varies, no doubt) is that you can retire early and lose a percentage of your base adjusted pay for retiring at, say 50 with 30 years of service, and you get 2% back for each year you stay in until full retirement at 55.  Yes, you read that right: 55.

That might have been workable for the 1930's (as you didn't get such lovely benefits like health insurance and you weren't expected to live to 65, on average) and government jobs tended to under-pay per sector of the economy.  After the 1980's the under-pay issue was seen as not enticing enough good workers to the government and a nice adjustment system got put in to raise the base pay and then add in for locality adjustments... during the Internet Bubble years of the 1990's no one noticed this due to the number of good jobs in the private sector.  The inflation of base pay, however, took on a power of its own regardless of the economy, and with the downturn in the economy the public sector now makes more, per equivalent position, than their private sector counter-parts.  States and localities may not have been as generous as the federal government, but in those venues the various workers came to rely on the pension system which often saw investments by organizations set to 'manage' them.  The California Public Employee Retirement System (CALPERS) was one of the one gambling money for pensions into high risk derivatives and stock investments that, when those went south, saw the entire income plummet for the retirement system.

This was mirrored in smaller degrees by a number of State and local pension systems or other retirement systems that thought a quick buck would be a long-lasting buck... and the good days would never, ever, end.  The State systems did this to benefit those working in the pension systems and that means when the Lake Woebegone Economy (all investments are always above average) saw the lake drain out as it was artificial, the States and localities found themselves with investments not gaining them money, actually growing smaller, and being unable to cover pensions without the help of tax dollars.  Lots and lots of tax dollars went into the system and now will need to bail them out.

The federal government relies on tax dollars for pensions and for individual private investment for retirees so that they can have an independent source of funds they can manage on their own.  Instead of the public employee system it is Social Security that has 'empty lock box syndrome' as the lock box was opened during the Johnson Administration and the money that, in theory, was your retirement 'investment' got spent like normal funds and a great big IOU went into the lock box.  Now the lock box is full of IOUs and that system is running in the red which means it is either: A) adding to the deficit and thusly the debt, or, B) eating up regular taxes and forcing other parts of the government to run a larger deficit, or, C) both A and B.

You will not be seeing a penny of your SSA 'investment' if you aren't already drawing it or aren't up for retirement in a few years as the entire she-bang will go insolvent somewhere between tomorrow and 2020.

I don't expect to see a single, red cent of SSA as I am only disabled for my work and SSA is set up to say that if you can breathe, move around a bit, function for 10 minutes a day, then you can, indeed, 'find work'.  As I can get a few hours of conscious thought in a day, have some energy and work very hard at trying to overcome what my body has handed me, I don't quality... and never expected to.   Just to get that out of the way, so you know that I 'paid in' to that corrupt system and expect no help from it.  Ever.  It is a 'sunk cost' and my money spent by the government already.

Now the question is: what to do about this mass of increasing debt because everyone is living so much longer that no one bothered to see if that motorhome and around-the-world vacation by the retired every couple of years was in any way, shape or form, affordable from public coffers.  Turns out they aren't because of demographics and our rewarding those in public service with great benefits, high paying jobs, fantastic retirement, health care, and cost of living adjustments.  Often with a Union taking a 'cut' from all of that.

To counter that there is one very, very harsh piece of medicine which is not contract law... well it is, but not the part most people are used to.  It turns out that when contracting with Sovereign Entities (normally Nations but I would expect that States have similar capability) they have a relatively easy thing to do: terminate contracts without recourse to sue the Sovereign as they ARE the Sovereign entity.  Some may allow you to sue, but that is an allowance if the Sovereign power wants to let you sue.  If it doesn't you have zero, as in no, recourse.  It is the source of the law, after all, and when the source determines it needs to terminate a contract for its convenience it can do so.

In the federal contracting side this is a T4C: Termination For Convenience of the government.

That is written into every single federal contract even if the verbiage never, once, appears as it is part of the contract verbiage that anyone getting a contract with the federal government are supposed to know before entering into a contract with it.  Yes a Sovereign Power is allowed to do that.  Yes it has been upheld in court numerous times.  No it is not illegal as that is the law as stated and if you don't bother to learn the law, you are still obligated to know it.  From that I expect other Sovereign entities, like the States and possibly more local powers, to have that same ability.

When push comes to shove a government can and will terminate contracts and obligations that hold it down, and it is far, far better to shaft individuals than to shaft other Nations.  Doing the former only gets you unrest, possibly a revolution if you don't play your cards right.  Doing the latter can get you a major war, at worse, and a huge loss in trade as most of the debt holders are people who trade with you... and doing that during an economic downturn is suicide.

Push is coming to shove on this, and no matter how 'liberal' or 'nice' a State or the federal government says it is via what it writes down, it holds the ability and actual duty to cut off those obligations when it is endangered.  Of course when its gotten that far the actual Sovereign isn't all that stable as a power and is flailing around for any way to save itself... but as we lose outside investors due to our economic problems, and as the largesse shoveled at public employees becomes a major part of the problem, I expect the movement by those in power to try and save their skins by sacrificing the retired and their retirement systems to become paramount.  Shedding that burden might get you a lot of angry retirees, yes, but it might just soothe everyone else for a few months until the next economic calamity hits.  By then the government is just doing anything it can to keep the pitchforks, torches and boiling vats of tar away.

Do I expect this to happen?

With some States, yes.

SSA and the medical apparatus of Medicare and Medicaid will also go down due to similar problems.

I suggest a Grand Bargain to get rid of those systems and help the economy, plus put the federal government on a starvation diet.  We made promises to ourselves via our government that we cannot keep, and as the amount of pain increases due to those promises the more inviting tossing them becomes.  I am more than prepared to see my SSA as a 'sunk cost' already spent and never to be seen.  The Grand Bargain would get the economy going if we dared to do it.  Soon we may not have that option.

Then things get interesting as the 'chuck it' and T4C appear as damned good ways out.