28 September 2010

Inside the case

Yet another post on what I do in my copious spare time!

This is another sort of DIY post which does not depend on overview but gets down to the actual doing.  What I'm about to cover can be generalized beyond the specific instance, however, to all sorts of other areas, which in this instance is to make a good storage flat for small equipment.

The victim...ahhhh... purchase... is an Armortek gun case seen at Cheaper Than Dirt!  I have purchased a few cases in my time, but they have been milsurp ammo cases or night vision goggle cases picked up for generally abuse resistant storage of ammo and equipment.  This time I was looking for something for generally secure storage in a vehicle for two handgun owners, and it could not be bulky and must fit inside the foot space of the passenger side in a Honda Insight two-door.  No one seems to make a vehicle console vault replacement for the central section of the dashboard going to the floor, which would have fit the bill nicely if any were made.  The cute little pistol boxes for individual storage are also nice, but the question of clutter and tangled cables comes to mind with those.  Space is at a premium in a two-seater vehicle, thus for two handgun owners something a bit larger than a single pistol case but a bit smaller than a metal vault (which can't be stored under the seats due to space considerations) means that something else needed to be found.

Enter the Armortek case, for $20 s&h not applied.  I've down sampled my original images for viewing and the lighting is overhead basement PAR30, so ambient light was lacking.  I am no professional in the picture taking biz.  And I'm not going to spend a few hours playing with them in photoshop: WYSIWYG.  Click on pictures for larger views.

That said, the case:

Armortek Case

Here out of its cardboard sleeve wrapper telling you of its self-evident utility.  Now to open it:

Armortek Case opened

There it is with a nice, soft velour interior, steel cable and key padlock.  Now with a FN/Browning 1922 with a few magazines:

Armortek Case Browning 1922

And something a bit heftier in a double-stack:

Armortek Case Para-Ord 14.45

And my favorite, the Vz. 61 Skorpion:

Armortek Case Vz. 61

And since the case is touted as taking 3 pistols:

Armortek Case 3 pistols

Now we hit the Theory and Practice Conundrum: in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

Here the theory of 3 pistols in a case is not the size of the case, which is excellent, but the interior.  The padding closes solidly together, to the degree that you might want to keep rings, bracelets or other relatively flat pieces of jewelry, or even something like the FN Browning and a Seecamp, but because of the tight fit between the padding getting 3 actual pistols in when they are not of graduating size down to vest pocket from standard 1911 is just something of a stretch. 

Thus it was time to investigate.

Up comes a pad and...

Armortek Case padding

...I am not amused.  What you see is a pad of open cell foam covered by that velour-like cloth, whith the cloth stitched on the sides to make an open pocket and then tape used to keep the cloth from pulling apart.  That trail you see is the glue used to keep the padding attached to the steel grid inside the case.  The foam is just thick enough to make the case nearly impossible to close with just the Vz. 61 Skorpion.  So out it came:

Armortek Case interiors

Leaving me with:

Armortek Case stripped

It is taking you longer to read and look at the pictures than it took me to get the padding out.  The inside, without the foam and material, is really perfect to make a proper storage flat container, one per side.  In other words this was not only a DIY project but an upgrade!  Thus I went foam shopping online for some closed cell (won't let water through) foam commonly used for sleeping bag mats, yoga mats and any other place you need a thin foam layer to cushion something.  Also I wanted some less dense foam to cut into strips to make sides for the flats, and 'pick and pluck' or diced foam that is pre-sliced into half-inch square sections to allow you to take out just what you need.

I go to a couple of places to get foam:  Foam order's packing foam and Foam Factory's packaging foam.  Both sites have a wide selection of other foam types and the only question is price and shipping.  I overbought on all of the foam so I could do multiple projects, which is always something to consider when working with foam as it is a bit bulky to ship.

Thus from left to right is the high density, lower density and diced foam:

Armortek Case the foam

Now the tools needed for the project:

Armortek Case the tools

Measuring devices, straight edge, scissors, and your choice of glue.  I used the Sticky Ass Glue and contact cement to try both out.  The Sticky Ass Glue is a foaming polyurethane glue that works wonders with foam.  Contact cement does a great job, also, and I have used single tubes and pots from various manufacturers with these just being the latest.

Basically what is done is to cut out a rectangle to fit the bottom of the case, a long one and quarter inch strip of low density foam to go around the edges, and glue them together.  Then determine the amount of diced foam to cover the interior minus the thickness of the side foam and glue all around the outer set of cuts lightly so as to gently secure the interior.  Wait and let dry.

Once it is all set to go, you set down each thing that needs to be on the flat and pluck out the foam.  Here is a plucked outline of the FN Browning:

Armortek Case plucked foam

And the flat it came from that will house both the Para-Ord and FN Browning:

Armortek Case two pistol flat

This was done with Stick Ass Glue, note the foaming where I made a couple of mistakes in my cutting:

Armortek Case Stick Ass foam

Unsightly, yes, but it does hold everything together and you can use a knife to carve it off if you don't like it.  I didn't do as well with the Skorpion flat done with contact cement...

Armortek Case Skorpion flat

...but that will be on the case side with some indents, so those problems along the side are from that.  Plus a bit more contact cement as I had oriented things right when I was putting it down. Live and learn.

Now insert the flats:

Armortek Case double pistol flat

Armortek Case Skorpion flat

Now if you've done the math you get a quarter inch of foam on the bottom, one and a quarter inch sides and one inch thick diced foam, which leaves you the ability to make a second cut-out from the denser foam to put on the top of the flats:

Armortek Case covered flats

Armortek Case revealed

Armortek Case on end

And then it is time to fill the flats:

Armortek Case filled

Its a bit sloppy here and there, and you can put diced foam back in with contact cement, although it gets a bit more rigid with that, so be warned.  Now to see the method in the madness of this:

Armortek Case opened

Armortek Case reverse view

As the Skorpion is a bit chunky, I knew it would need some space for pressing into the other side.  Thus I positioned it and kept that in mind as I made the layout for the opposite side.  The top layers of foam keep everything snug while traveling.

Now, when you do try to open that with everything in there and loaded, the Skorpion magazines tend to want to wander around.  Thus the flats need some method to secure the top foam on them.  I recommend 5/8" webbing straps.

Or make your own snug container system like I did:

Armortek Case containerized

It does help to be able to sew and that part took a couple of weeks, the flats were about two days, total:

Armortek Case both sides

Now I can place some additional spacers on the underside of the tops in the pockets I made for the tops.  Or put in a nice, soft, fleece layer.

I wish that there was a place that did precision foam die cutting and had the outlines of popular handguns available... the few places that will do that cost more for one sheet, die cut, than this entire project, which clocked in under $75, s&h included, although cost of extra foam not included.

My time is free, of course.

But now I have the perfect, modular case that I can make flats for other handguns or equipment, so that I can re-purpose the case just by swapping the interior foam flats.  That is way, way, way more than I can do with most other cases...

25 September 2010

Con Man Universe Description

A Confidence Man is an individual or group that runs a corrupt game or scheme so as to defraud those who pay into or invest in such a scheme.  I will horrendously oversimplify this, as the multiplicity and complexities involved in con games, as well as types of them, are enormous.  Still they all boil down to just a few major factors.  In the universe of the Con Man (and associates) there are only a few classes of people outside of those actually running the thing:

1) The Plant(s) - These are individuals who may know about the scheme or game, or may only be willing to accept minor payment to take part in the game or scheme so as to make it work.  Plants are the individuals who 'win' or get pay outs early on in the system.  These are the individuals that give a patina of legitimacy to the scheme or game so as to entice others to take part.  Plants can also be individuals who are of a later class, but so early on in the scheme or game that it 'works' for them.

2) Rubes - These are the individuals who buy into the game or scheme as 'legitimate' but have no knowledge that a game is going on.  Plants can be first generation Rubes who unknowingly play the game or pay into the scheme but are in that select segment that must get a payout, of some sort, so as to keep the mollified and have the illusion of an above-board operation remain.  Rubes who become Plants via this unknowing pay off of a fraudulent scheme or game in its first iteration also serve as recruiters to get more people to play the game or buy into the scheme.  The more gullible Rubes there are saying that the scheme or game is legitimate, the greater the long term pay off for those running the game or scheme.

3) The Mark - The Mark are the individuals in the high profit zone for the game or scheme.  Marks can be from any level of Rube-dom, but they are the ones who will buy into the scheme late enough so that they will not get their money back.  Marks may be unintentional players who just want to have some 'fun' or who have a predilection to believing the scheme works due to the number of Plants and Rubes.  When the game or scheme fails, these are the folks who lose the most.  Once a confidence scheme is fully operational after the first level of pay outs, anyone paying in can be said to be The Mark.  The Mark is the target of the swindle.

4) Those who see through the game or scheme for what it is.  These are the people that the game or scheme derides, calls them 'unsophisticated' or 'stupid' or otherwise castigates them.  That serves the two-fold purpose of assuring the Rubes and future Marks that they are the 'smart' ones who are going to 'make' money off of the scheme or game.  The level of attacks on those who see through the game may be intense enough to convince them to become Rubes, which also makes them qualified to be Marks.


Consider the world of Bernie Madoff with a scheme built up out of the 'intelligent' investing class of rich individuals.  He originally made his name as a smart trader on Wall Street, and with a good history of some ability to pick stocks he gained the reputation of knowing what he was talking about.  That portion of the patina to his con game ran through until just a few years ago, but the con, itself, started in the 1980's.  The con started with friends and family, and then became a 'word of mouth' affair that described the 'incredible deal' that Madoff had for those willing to invest in his organization.  The deal was that Madoff had a 'secure' group of stocks and bonds that were 'market proof': they gave a steady yield no matter what the market did.  His immediate friends and family became Plants and they created the aura of Madoff being able to 'out-smart' the market and even had pay offs to show for it.  Thus the investment scheme gained legitimacy as it was seen as being able to pay out as it said it could do.  For nearly two decades the population of Rubes expanded and so did the population of Marks.

The external population was kept at bay as they were not privy to the investment scheme system.  Part of making the aura of stability was that it went after rich individuals and conned them into believing that their money gave them good and smart advice via this system.  Madoff's system was recognized for what it was when a mathematician exposed the fraud in 2001, but by then the Universe of Rubes and Marks was large enough to convince Congress and Regulators that the scheme was legitimate.  Like any Ponzi Scheme it requires a new generation of individuals to pay into it, and lacked funds to actually pay out as there were very few actual investments in the scheme at all.  The numbers were made up.  As the latest recession started to tremble into the upper reaches of the markets, those individuals finding their investments evaporating went to Madoff to get their money back, as he said they could do.  He hoped to weather out the storm, thought it would be minor, and was able to pay off the first few people asking for funds as he hoped to retain the air of legitimacy via their becoming Plants.  As the numbers wanting their money back increased, the system could no longer pay out to them and the scheme was revealed for what it was.


Enron's mess of water and energy trading followed a similar set of lines in the buying, trading and selling of energy and water as commodities via the State run system in California.  Enron's attempt to hold financial pay outs steady, however, led to misreporting finances, that then steamrollered once the fraud was uncovered.  It went from controlling a majority of the private power sold in California to nothing in a period of months.  Here the scheme was the utilization of the ever increasing energy needs in California to purchase energy outside the State and put it through the State's regulatory system which was stifling the creation of new power facilities in the State.  In this case the Rubes set up the system to run the game, and the people of California were the Plants and then the Marks. 

Enron, by manipulating the power market, was able to create shortages and hike costs all the while showing a sound financial footing in the commodity trading scheme that it ran.  This scheme ran well enough, at an internal loss of course, that they expanded into the water markets and started doing the same thing.  When the crooked money transfers, kick-backs and executives siphoning funds from the company to leave it as a shell was revealed, the entire set of schemes imploded.  When the Plants became the Marks via the legitimacy given to the scheme via the Rubes in Sacramento, the ability to actually buy and sell power into California showed deficiencies in the accounting practices at Enron.  Whistleblowers would reveal the system, but the system itself can be seen as a creation of an over-weening State wanting to get around hard decisions and a confidence game stood up to gull the Rubes into believing that they could do so.  Rubes who set up a system to make hard decisions for them are less likely to run good oversight on the system as actually doing so gets them involved in distasteful decisions which they want to hand off in the first place.


Stepping up in scale is the Bank of NY penetration by the Red Mafia that started in the early 1990's with the collapse of the USSR.  In the post-USSR set of Republics there was a lack of hard currency as the Soviet Ruble was worthless.  Yet there were still factories, mines, and a population that could work if you could do the minimal and guarantee food for them.  Those able to get hard cash, or even work out barter systems between ore, finished goods and food gained control of the means of production as they became available.  Approximately one-third of that fell into criminal enterprises which were set up by an internal group of operatives assisted by the financier on the lamb, Marc Rich (the from previous articles on the Red Mafia, in particular this one on international finances).  Again the Rubes set up the system (the Russian government) for the Con Men to operate and once they were able to sell goods and ore for hard cash, they immediately went into procuring banks and over-seas accounts.  To get around foreign investment transaction oversight required penetrating western financial institutions, which was done via the Bank of NY (my lengthy article on that is here).  In short being able to get a couple of Plants into the BoNY system allowed for other operatives from the Red Mafia to utilize a money laundering system on a global scale that would process approximately $70 billion through it in less than ten years, and more like 7 years.  The fraud became apparent when one of the side operators (only a side operator in this area, but a major player in Russia) Semion Mogilevitch who was part of the YBM/Magnex fraud scheme that took place in the Canadian and US commodities market for permanent magnets.  That securities fraud funneled money through the BoNY and into a system of trade and transactions that still has not been teased out.

In this case the fraud system is so large, and the fronts operating with legitimacy via the legal framework in Russia and exploiting the nature of the capital and commodities markets in the west, that no one can even be sure if the fraudulent transactions have actually stopped.  When billions of dollars go into transactions for aluminum or steel, who will notice a few hundred million more in fraud bundled in with it?  In this case the Rubes in government have made everyone, globally, potential Marks.  The Plants are those individuals who actually had normal transactions go through the fraudulent system early on.  Even with the tightening of banking and financial regulations by many countries, many other countries refuse to do so as they are seen as 'safe havens' for 'troubled times' and enjoy having the benefits of large money transactions funding their governments via minor taxes.  So while a few Plants have been prosecuted, along with a Rube or two, the Marks remain defrauded.


Moving up scale from that.... and you can move upscale from that, size-wise, is another Ponzi Scheme that has been rolling blissfully along for nearly 80 years.  It has the patina and age of legitimacy.  There are lots of Plants who get pay offs from the system, and it has a full population of Rubes who, by law, are also The Marks.  This is another Rube created system by government unwilling to make hard decisions and wanting to pass on any oversight of a system that was not meant to work outside of very limited circumstances.  The scheme seems so 'nice' that Rubes don't want to admit to themselves that it doesn't work:  look at all the Plants getting pay offs!  Unfortunately as they are also The Mark there are a few people starting to realize that this system is broke (not just broken, but broke) and that paying into it will not sustain or recover it.  This system is the US Social Security Administration, and since its first pay outs in 1940 it has been creating a class of Plants to confirm that the system 'works'.

Based on the proposition that you 'invest' into an account with government, you are 'guaranteed' a set of payments equal to what you paid in plus 1% until you draw all 'your' money from the account.  Even when created private annuity systems paid out better via investments as those running annuities must keep reserve capital inside their funds system to allow for pay back of funds over time.  In good times the funds run on the excess made, stock a portion of earnings into the reserve and then utilize the rest to grow the system.  In bad times the limited payoffs cause the fund system to shrink, but retains operating expenses necessary to run pay outs from reserves to cover those who paid into the system.

The US government, on the other hand, spends the money it gets and puts a big, fat IOU in the reserve of SSA.  This became law during the Johnson Administration, and since then there are no 'reserves' of funds for SSA: it is broke and pays out in income from FICA and now from the general fund of the US government.

By definition any scheme that is able to pay out early adopters but only by growing the base of those paying in while keeping no reserves (or only a slim reserve like Madoff) is a Ponzi Scheme.

Thus SSA is a Ponzi Scheme.

Every single individual drawing 'their' promised money is involved in a wealth transfer system with the government as intermediator so that young, and relatively poor, working class individuals pay to have the older, and generally richer, generation 'retire' with a 'guaranteed income' from SSA.  Set up so that those who would get money from the system would be limited via a 'retirement age' of 63 which was also the average life expectancy when the system was started, it would never have had to pay out to more than half the older population and thus would 'work'.  Demographic trends in two directions make this unworkable: increased average life expectancy, and the child replacement rate.  I have examined this problem previously (in this article) but when this is taken in the context of a Confidence Game the perspective becomes clear - the retirement age is kept constant (even as life expectancy increases and child per family decreases) so as to create a 'faith' in the system that it 'works' and will be able to run like this forever.  Madoff would pay off some early investors entirely and that gave them faith in the system and they spread the word about it.  So, too, does SSA have a couple of layers of the Ponzi pyramid behind it giving the sense that this systems is 'workable' and 'legitimate'.  And as with any good con game, the Con Man has gained such a degree of confidence that, like Enron, even when presented with the cold, hard facts, people don't want to believe that this is the way it is actually run.

When this system comes down all of the Rubes will know they are the Mark, and some of the Plants will, also.

The system has been run, like the California energy trading system, to put off hard decisions and yet get pleasing results, to the point where the first internal audits of SSA in the 1980's put its collapse around 2050.  Then in the early 1990's it was 2030.  Around 2000 it was 2020.  SSA went into the red this year.  Every single politician since that original revelation during the Reagan Administration who has told you this system: 'works', is 'sustainable', is run 'efficiently', and is 'good' has been lying through their teeth to you or are oblivious to the ways of economics and demographics.  Yet as they take an Oath to the Constitution, and thusly to you, they have been negligent in their duties for decades.  Remember those trying to point out the problems in the system or try to 'fix' this already rigged system have been shouted down as being 'mean to the elderly', 'stupid', 'hurtful', and just plain 'ignorant'.  That has been the shouting down by the Con Men to continue the system by castigating those who recognize the con game for what it is.

We have got a problem, and in a sane world every politician who has willingly supported SSA as it stands since the 1980's should be up on fraud and negligence charges, with decades ahead of them in the Federal Pen.



Now moving up in scale...

What?  Isn't that bad enough?  Isn't the fact that our National Debt is more than all the money in the world (and that is on the optimistic side) bad enough?

My fellow Americans there is a problem that will hit us, from out of the blue, in the next few years that is not our own Progressive/Socialist/Communist Establishment Elite Politicians or of their making.  Not by intent, at least.

Nation States can give the instant aura of legitimacy, the patina of something being 'real' and 'working' even when such schemes they put forth make zero economic sense, at all.  Why?  Because they can tax the hell out of their people.  The US started running another Ponzi style scheme in the home mortgage market and the advent of the 'securitized' home mortgage by Ginnie Mae (my article on that and the destruction of the traditional mortgage market).  In this system the government 'guarantees' the risk of home mortgages via the 'securitized' system by bundling loans together.  Thus we saw loans that were pure junk get AAA ratings when they were bundled together via the fiat of government regulation.  Those regulations are still on the books, by the way.  Thus banks were forced into working with this market arrangement if they wanted anything to do with the home mortgage market, and if they didn't Fannie and Freddie had started to move in with their even higher risk loan capabilities that gained the benefit of the 'securitized' market.  That is how we got a multi-decade housing bubble: by government regulation, forcing banks to accept government assessment of risks, and then cutting down the amount needed to get a home to zero.

Didn't work so hot, did it?

Now imagine a country that does that with residential real estate, like we did, commercial real estate (that is slowly coming out here, too), and industrial real estate and facilities.  In other words a country that has its entire economy built on a bubble of bad debt that it is unwilling to own up to, but must do so as the creditors it invited in want their money out in the securities that they were given.  That country is not the United States.

It is China.

I wrote about that in The Directivity of China.  The reason I more or less live my life by trend analysis is that once a trend is established it will continue unless its underlying causative factors change.  To get its industrial growth in the 1990's, China issued debt obligations: they promised to pay back the money with a nominal rate of interest.  When those notes came due in the mid-2000's they 'rolled over' the debt as in 2003-2006 China looked pretty safe, all things considered.  Now the next debt 'roll over' has arrived and the creditors want their money plus interest.

China's problem is that it did with its entire real estate, commercial and industrial sectors what the US did with 'securitized' loans: it gave junk loans the imprimatur of being good loans via its ratings.  In fact those loans were crony capitalist loans that went to making factories that were not well run and failed.  Luckily the cronies, being cronies, could get more money by hitting up their friends in the government to continue on the patina of 'everything is working just fine'.

Thus the Con Men are the Chinese government, just as it was the US government for SSA, Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie, etc.

The plants for this, in China, are the crony capitalists and some foreign capitalists willing to take on some risky loans that might get a high payback.  Some factories actually moved to China for its low cost labor force.  Meanwhile as industrial plants failed, the government absorbed the debt, called it 'AAA delicious', and rolled over their Marks as they had established a good Rube environment in the west.  To this day you hear about how 'China is a world beater' and then hear about them having enough empty rental property to house the entire US population (Source: Marketwatch, 03 AUG 2010).  China has overbuilt entire cities expecting ever increasing wealth, and yet cannot find people to occupy them (Source: Kris Cyganiak at BuyRIC, 08 MAR 2010) even though the government assures everyone that their people are growing so rich, so quickly, that they just don't have time to move to them (Source: WSJ, Andrew Batson, 12 MAY 2010).

If that last bit sounds a lot like a Con Man trying to convince the Rubes that the game is working, and even better than expected, then join the club.  The problems of China go far beyond industry and have to do with the population, demographics, and just sheer size of China.  Yes China is the world's second largest economy.  Just as it was in 1900.  Size will get them there even on absolute poverty as the median for standard of living.  The problem is that with the debt come due, the current Marks wanting to be paid, and having put so much into so much useless building, China has nothing to repay with.  The cost of labor in China has increased, due to the cost of overhead, in turn that is due to the over-building and speculation that has gone on, which, in its turn, is based on bad debt.  When the debt gets called in the rest falls apart, and building gleaming new apartment complexes with no one to fill them does not a modern city make.  This is repeated in the commercial sector, with empty shopping malls created via crony construction companies, and private real estate via the same system and bundling together of bad loans with the AAA perfume. 


In the near future we may come to the point where any 'security' even glanced at by a government will be assumed to be junk in its status, and it won't matter which government it is, either on a global basis as they will all be assumed to be in bed with their cronies running a con game on their people.

And when China slips below the waves of solvency, just where will Wal-Mart get its stuff?

Probably Indonesia, Vietnam and a few other places... but that lovely market that everyone talked about in the 1970's... you remember the one that would see the glorious infusion of western capital to build up a wonderful system as part of the global trade concept... what happens when that drops of the radar screen of fiscal solvency?  The US can't save it as we are nearly there, ourselves, just not going at the fast rate of China.  And we can't solve the problem by spending more money.

The source of the problem, if you haven't guessed it, is not the small time cons like Madoff or even Enron, both bad enough, and, for the horror of it all, the penetration of our international financial system by organized crime.  That latter is horrific, but cannot be matched by the willingness of Nation State political systems to rip off their own people under multiple guises and not be held accountable for their actions until it is too late.  The problems in China, alone, dwarf anything that any organized crime organization could even dream of due to the scale of the population involved.  Even the Daly Machine in Chicago realized it needed to pick up trash regularly to have the patina of 'working' on its side.  Nation States are only under that much obligation to the extent they allow their people a say in their own systems, which is why it is necessary to have Plants to encourage the Rubes to buy into a scheme to become Marks... or to force them into the scheme, anyway, even if they don't buy into it.

Nice how governments over-ride good sense, isn't it?  Notice how that is also the pre-requisite to running a con game?


How do you identify a con game?

Whenever you approach a situation, and it doesn't matter if it is a proposal from government or an offer from Luigi down the street to do your windows, the question you first have to ask is: who is going to really benefit from this?  They may tell you that you will benefit, but you then have to ask who besides you will benefit?  Now with Luigi that's just a contract situation of money for services.  For a government it is taxes for a whole slew of things, that just keep on getting longer, many of which have no benefit to you, whatsoever.  If what you hear is that it is you, and only you, that will benefit, and this is not God talking to you, then you have properly identified a con game. 

Get rich quick?  A con game. 

Easy money? A con game.

A sure way to pick the ponies learned in ten minutes? A con game.

Retire with assured benefits that no one in the market can guarantee?  A con game.

A majority services economy makes everyone rich without making anything? A con game.

Do you see how this works?  Unrealistic expectations guaranteed to come true.  That is a con game.  When perpetrated as part of a system to separate you from your money it is called either fraud or taxes.

Some systems are set up by well meaning Rubes that then turn into a con game with no one running it save a bureaucracy. That is SSA, Fannie, Freddie, Sallie, Ginnie, etc. and while SSA can't lobby Congress, the others can and do so for their own bureaucratic interests.  Of course the bureaucracy has an innate goal of perpetuating a con game once it starts, and they will deny any concept that they are running a con game, even to themselves.  Pournelle's observation on bureaucracies is that in all bureaucracies you have those wanting to do their jobs and those wanting to grow the power of the bureaucracy, and the latter always come to dominate the former.  Thus no matter how 'good' a bureaucracy starts out, it quickly morphs into a large, power-hungry, cash driven organization wanting more and more at each step along the way.


Once you identify the con game, you then have to ask: who is the Mark?

You are the moment you realize you must ask that question, especially if it is in the middle of a con game.

You are the Mark.

You are being defrauded and you may already have paid a lot of money into a system that 'promises' to pay you back.

The system will only pay you anything so it can turn you into a Plant, to continue the patina of legitimacy it has.  Most Marks never get a chance to become Plants, unless it is a truly huge fraud scheme.  For the most part you have a low likelihood of becoming a Plant as a proliferation of Plants shows that the scheme is about to be revealed.

Have I mentioned that SSA is running in the red?

When you are the Mark in any normal scheme, you must stop paying into it.  There are very few schemes where you can out-swindle the swindlers and maybe get some justice, if not your money back, but those are so rare they need fictional accounts to glamorize them as they don't happen that often in daily life.

If you can't stop paying, say the government requires you to pay into a system involuntarily, then you must recognize that you have losses of throwing good money after bad that will, most likely, never come back.  Everything you paid into the system is gone: you have been swindled.

You are the Mark, the target of the swindle.

If you have any say into the system, at all, you must exercise it to end the fraud and cease the swindling.

The Rubes will attack you as mean, stupid, vicious, hating people, unrealistic, heartless, cold, cruel... remember that before you thought about it you were a Rube, once, too.  The willing Mark is the worst sort of Rube as they want to deny reality and want to willingly live in a fantasy land to their last breath.  Or their last dollar, which will probably come first. 

If you try to ignore the problem, you become a Plant to give shade to the Rubes who continue to push Marks into the system.  And if you worry about the other Marks or those Plants who can still become Marks, you do them no good whatsoever by creating more of them by letting the system go on with your nodding assent.  And that doesn't help your situation, as you are still being swindled, nor the situation of the other Marks, and while you feel sorry for the plants you could certainly find a better way to tend to the ends you desire than via the con game you are in.

Remember that in all cases, you are the Mark: you are the victim of this fraud.

You were born Free.

You can get back to being Free by ending the con game.

Your choices are:

1) The Plant - Hoping you get in on the game early enough to get out of it and offer the game an air of legitimacy.  That makes you culpable for continuing the game, however.

2) The Rube - The mindless repeaters, nodders, those agreeing to the game without thinking and those shouting down the critics of the con game.  They are the backers of legitimacy, and can't believe that they will ever be a Mark.

3) The Mark - The sucker.  The person who gets swindled. The loser. The target of the fraud.

4) The Free - Those who ensure their freedom by the hard task of guarding it, thinking about what they do, and trying to end fraud high and low when it is perpetrated upon them and their fellow citizens.  This is the hardest to do.

The choice of what you are is up to you, once you identify a con game.

Getting to Free is painful.

Waiting for the game to come apart even more painful.

You can either end it and gain Freedom, or wait for it to be ended and continue to the The Mark.

24 September 2010

Tea Party Foreign Policy Concepts

There have been others writing on this topic and I've only seen links to articles like this criticism by President Clinton (to which I responded in a comment thread at Hot Air) or this piece by P.J. O'Rourke. The basic Establishment criticism now being echoed in some venues is that the Tea Party 'needs' a foreign policy (beyond that of John Bolton joining an election day Tea Party group, H/t: Dan Riehl; 25 SEP 2010 update by Michael Patrick Leahy at Big Journalism here). No one can speak for the Tea Party (why I describe in this piece) but the thrust of a distributed, small government, fiscally conservative distributed organization is one that will guide its foreign policy to a large extent. Parallels between how the emergent behavior of such a disintermediating force will play in foreign policy are interesting as the guiding precepts of thrift, frugality and expenditures only for the necessary come into play. Similarly as a small governance distributed organization, it will not look towards big government, centralized pathways for its foreign policy. Thus some outlines, and they can only be that at this point in time, can be generally sketched out, although some details may go beyond the sketching area while others will draw closer in within that area so as to avoid the edges. Thus each of the major thrust domains of the Tea Party will constrain the resultant foreign policy, and if you examine the thrust domains you get the sketch parameters.

Small or Limited Government

This domain is paramount and drives foreign policy. A shift towards smaller government has not been seen since the time of President Coolidge, and the shift of foreign policy then will indicate which direction the US goes with a Tea Party majority or even large plurality holding the purse strings of government in the balance. It is a view that draws away from large, international institutions just as it draws away from large national ones: these are concurrent beliefs in the strength of the individual to do good on their own and while the Nation is guided by the President on foreign policy, it is up to the people to fill in that guidance outline.

What results is not, exactly, isolationism of the pre-WWII era: Americans remember WWII and have no wish to repeat it.

Americans also remember that entangling alliances, dependence on foreign policy to keep a status quo, internationally, led to WWI.

This then shifts the Tea Party away from the artifacts of the Post-WWII era that have dominated foreign policy: the UN, IMF, World Bank, and other large scale, unaccountable multi-Nation organizations. If we have had problem with run-away, accountable government, the problems of runaway, unaccountable international institutions will not garner support from a Tea Party perspective. These large organizations that the US contributes the bulk of the funding to can expect either a massive draw-down and demands for accountability (via accounting firms, audits, and some form of Inspector General) or be completely de-funded and withdrawn from. If international institutions shirk the accountability, then they get the de-funding. Even if they become more accountable, they lose a lot of funding as they had to be told to be accountable in the first place and didn't hold themselves accountable to all who contributed to them. This can be an expected fallout of similar moves on the National side against unaccountable bureaucracies (ex. Federal Reserve, Fannie, Freddie, Sallie, Ginnie, Dept of Agriculture, Education, Energy, etc.). Thus what will come of that is something that looks far closer to 19th century US foreign policy and not like post-Theodore Roosevelt foreign policy (his examination of why international institutions that he originally favored are unworkable are in Chapter XV of his autobiography at The Gutenberg Project).

Thus limited funding for such institutions will be an outcome of a Tea Party foreign policy and those institutions will be very, very few and limited in nature. There will be no adoration for the multi-National organizations that create policies counter to the interests of the US, and they can expect to be cut off completely under a Tea Party driven foreign policy.

Limited Funding

The US federal budget system is flat broke and living beyond its means.

Foreign policy gets cut, drastically by a Tea Party based foreign policy as this is part of the domestic policy review.

Expect funding for Palestine, Turkey, China and a few other prime hostile Nations to be slashed. Everyone else will take a cut. Humanitarian aid funding may be retained, but nowhere near current levels, and they will concentrate into the 'boots on the ground, post-disaster' sort of aid and not longer term, systemic aid. AIDS funding for Africa will dry up, as the way to stop the spread of AIDS is well known: have safe sex with very few partners. Sorry if that sounds moralistic, but that is how the disease is spread - via unsafe sex with lots of partners. If people can't figure this one out at this late date, then no amount of funding will help them to stop it... and what aid that does 'help' is limited to a very few cases and might be better served via charitable organizations with targeted tax cuts for them.

Foreign aid can also be expected to shift from the cash venue to the products venue: products are harder to pilfer, designated as to type and delivery point, easier to account for, harder to sell on the black market and generally help the US economy via production and delivery of same. Cash quickly ends up in the pockets of intermediaries and kleptocrats, and that lack of accountability or 'wink and a nod' to corruption will be curbed if not ended entirely. No good is done by letting leeches and skimmers siphon off aid from those who need it, and if they threaten us with arms, they announce they are our enemy.

We will no longer fund our enemies or the enemies of our friends. We don't have the funds to afford that and can't afford that now, if we would but think about it.

Overseas Military Presence

Outside of active war zones, there will only be a few logistics and supply bases for those zones left under a Tea Party foreign policy. If a deep ally wishes to have a base to co-train with us, that is one thing and we should honor them with a base and training with them, although it should be a training base.

Pragmatically this means that Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Japan and a few other places will suddenly have empty lots available.

Those who are fighting enemies that are our enemies can expect continued help. That means Colombia against FARC, Philippines against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (and various others), Iraq against al Qaeda and generally anyone else against al Qaeda and their offshoots as well. Help means logistics help, INTEL help, and even boots on the ground if necessary.

In the Af-Pak region there will need to be some recognition that the reason for the conflict there dates back to the British Empire attempting to divide the Pashtuns, and then when they left that border being left without agreement as to where it should be. The resolution can be brokered locally, but must be done to finally settle matters there once and for all. Pakistan is unwilling to police the NWFP and other Pashtun lands properly, Afghanistan can't achieve that with their limited economy on their side of the border, and the Pashtuns haven't been able to figure out what they actually want on their own, either. At some point the Pashtuns have to be asked what they actually want, get everyone to stop having a conniption fit if they can actually make a decision, and then get some agreement that leaves no one satisfied but actually gets some understanding and agreement to talk it out without pulling in foreign terrorists, thugs, and killers. It may not be peace as we know it, but that is close to peace as they know it.

A cheap and easy way to go after those who think Private War is fun to wage against the US is to authorize Privateers. Privateers are not mercenaries: no one pays them to do their work. Privateers are accountable under military codes for their military work as they fly our flag for their actions. They are authorized by Congress, and the President can call upon them for work against foes identified by Congress. What they can do is grab stuff from and offer reprisals to our enemies, with both being glamorous but the grabbing offering the bread and butter part of the work. Privateers are in the business of taking support from those who are not Nations in proportion they have done to the US on a 1:1 basis. What they are authorized to grab they can then sell at auction, and that often goes beyond the material, itself, and includes the shipping and transport vessels of such material bound for our enemies. This is a low cost, high benefit operation to the US government and is a wonderful way to get those over-age for military work who still want to go after our enemies a way to do so. No one pays them to do that - they volunteer. They can die for this privilege. Which means they will not risk their lives foolishly. If it sounds like a strange version of the Repo Man, that is because that is what Privateers are. You can fear the police, but you dread the Repo Man.

Remember: thrift and low expenditures by the government drive decisions.


Lots of it with friends and allies.

No subsidies to any of it for homegrown businesses and talking with our friends and allies about reducing their subsidies to their homegrown competitors. Free people should be willing to play on a field where governments do not dictate outcomes and that governing systems determine competitiveness. This helps to reform all systems involved as free people will identify problems and seek remediation for them based on a value of absolute human liberty to prosper by one's own hand.

Perhaps a minor set of tariffs to Nations not liking us over much, but liking to trade with us a lot - they can pay for the privilege of not being a friend or ally, just a trade partner. This would not be enough to discourage trade, but enough to show that the value of human liberty has a direct cost to it. And it would be a way to get some income into the treasury outside of all other taxes.

The understanding is that trade amongst free peoples reinforces them, builds them up and enables them to exercise their liberty with greater strength for the benefit of all. Trade does not reform Nations: decades of trade with China has not changed the repressive nature of the system there and only moved it from a form of Communism to a form of Fascism. Neither form of government sees individual liberty as a good thing, represses it whenever it goes against the State, and will not set up humane laws for working conditions for its population, thus creating some of the worst working conditions on the planet that make the old sweatshops seem positively benign in comparison. We do like the cheap goods from China because China values human life so cheaply. Thus a minor but constant rebuke is in order, and even at 1% it would be minor, at 10% it would be noticeable but not impact prices too much in the US for all goods coming from China.

The American people do not support tyrants, dictators or systems made to repress the individual via the State. That is the point of the movement at home and becomes one abroad, as well.

Topics of Human Rights

As all humans are created equal, they deserve to create their own government to reflect their values and such government should not trample on the rights of its population in the areas of liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the absolute right of self-defense.

Small arms treaties have not, noticeably, changed the number of conflicts around the globe. Getting some agreement to stopping the creation of landmines is only partially successful as it is not a universal ban and as technology improves the ability of devices to discriminate between targets increases, not decreases. The old 'step on it and it goes boom' sort is a danger to everyone. One that senses mass, has a sensor system to determine the nature of who is stepping on it, and that automatically defuses itself if left in place for too long is of less danger to individuals immediately after a war zone shifts and becomes inert in days, not decades. As that is a weapons class of war, not for personal self-defense, it shows little applicability to items that do apply directly to self-defense: small arms.

In that realm the US is not a leader, but somewhere far back in the pack with Nations like the Czech Republic actually freely allowing and propagating arms in its civilian population that would shock many in the US Elite Establishment. Automatic weapons are far more common, per capita, there as they recognize the danger from authoritarian and totalitarian government having experienced the Nazi and Communist systems up-close and personal for decades. While requiring a permit to own fully automatic weapons, that is not a burden to the Czech people as they encourage individuals to understand and use responsibly the small arms necessary to defend themselves from tyrants and dictators. Bans on firearms are meant to make a people subservient to, and unable to resist, their government. Thus the UK has gone from a gun ban to those now pushing the idea that all paychecks should go to the State, first, and the State determine if you should get anything from your work. That took years to do, not decades, and the slippery slope of believing that arms are the problem of criminality and thuggish behavior belies the fact that criminals and thugs then see more people as victims and the government sees their citizens as serfs who work for the State.

This topic, currently not a part of US foreign policy, would be expected to appear as the Tea Party has a strong affiliation with personal liberty, self-reliance and self-control. There is no fear of an armed citizen as they exercise the positive, natural right to say that they will not be a victim to anyone from a street thug to their own government.

Freedom of worship expectations would re-orient US foreign policy more towards its 19th century roots and expectations of other Nations to follow the good example of Westphalian behavior of religious tolerance and the State not telling people what to believe. That only ends in death and destruction, while religious tolerance creates a more civil, more active society willing to work out what is best for all citizens and still uphold the common morals so as to have a civil society. Government cannot create morals in its people, but it can join with them to reinforce the concept that bad moral behavior that endangers the public has a high civil price to pay to it. As a Nation we expect to see basic human liberty to talk about these things, protect oneself from government turned thug, and get to a rational set of laws amenable to all via their sparsity to be the good result of religious toleration.

As the modern age has made a distributed system of communications available, protecting the right of free speech means that a free and unfettered medium of communication must be upheld as a basic part of our human rights. That goes from verbal speech to ink on paper to electromagnetic waves going from broadcast stations to radios and tvs to digital electronic exchanges over a shared inter-networked environment. The liberty of speech is scale free and there is no scale level where it needs to be made 'fair' or restricted or censored. As the Tea Party uses all media to exchange ideas and build a common ideal set, the extreme good of this human liberty is seen. Having distracters, dissenters and discourse allows for the marketplace of ideas to test out new concepts and put them through the wringer before they can get a food-hold in society as a whole. Good ideas cannot be grown in a monocultural garden, as the first idea to threaten the monoculture will bring it down. A robust, interactive environment providing safe haven for discourse for all peoples means that good ideas with merit will gain acceptance, and those without merit or that threaten human liberty will be discarded. As a people we welcome this free and unfettered system of communications as one of the greatest goods and highest liberties we have and we should seek to extend it to all mankind in all its venues. Luckily that is low cost as we don't have to provide printing presses, broadcast hardware and receivers, nor computers to anyone, just make the discourse systems open to the interchange of ideas. That is what human liberty and freedom of speech is all about and 'fairness' is in the eye of the beholder.

Those systems unwilling to tolerate freedom and liberty for their own citizens are enemies of these ideals and should understand that by the way we treat them... or don't treat them as the case may be. The greatest good can be done not by trying to 'help' citizens in Nations abrogating their basic rights, but in ignoring those systems and working to undermine their legitimacy so the people in that Nation can change it. We can advocate for human liberty everywhere, safeguard our own and show why those two must be done and let others know there is a cost to not allowing human liberty for one's own people in the way of our not working with you on anything.

In general, following the dictum of 'how they come to power, so shall they rule' allows for some insight in a people that don't want to be ruled and who want equal treatment by their government to all citizens as their touchstone. As we apply it at home, so it will be done abroad. The concepts of thrift, that is low expenditures for high returns, equality of treatment amongst equals, showing that there is a real world cost to not applying principles of human liberty and rights to the population of Nations, and keeping out of entangling alliances and slimming down the military so as not to be the 'World's Policeman' are all seeking to enhance liberty and freedom at home, keep government small and effective, and spread the blessings of liberty beyond our shores.

We used to do that, way back when.

And that part of our outlook now appears to be returning in full-throated voice, with this last year or so being the voice preparation for the choir that is about to take center stage and move the old fashioned 'wings' concept out of the theater. Too long have these voices been missing from the American Stage, and now they are about to change the way we look at ourselves, how the world looks at us and how we look at the world.

All of that starts with you.

12 September 2010

9 Years and 1 Day

After the attack of 11 SEP 2001 there is but one question to answer:  are we safer today than on that fateful day?

To examine that there are the good and bad to look at since then.

On the good side, first.

We have removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.

We have removed a genocidal leader and helper of terrorism, Saddam Hussein, from leading Iraq and he got justice from his people.

Monzer al-Kassar the grand supplier of arms to terrorists and organized crime, head of the family responsible for the heroin fields in Lebanon and one of the craftiest men alive is in Club Fed.

Semion Mogilevich is in Russian custody, although the extent that it limits him is unclear.

Imad Mugniyah, the most deadly man to the US before bin Laden, is dead by Israeli attack.

Raul Reyes, the high level leader of FARC, is dead.

Viktor Bout is in custody, no longer plying his arms to terrorists and thugs.

The Islamic Courts Union have been booted from Somalia.

The IRA is, functionally, gone as a terror organization.

The Tamil Tigers are much reduced.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is on the ropes in the Philippines.

Colombia has been successful in getting FARC out of its production areas for cocaine.

Syria has attempted to start a nuclear bomb building group and was stopped by Israel.

Mohamar Kaddafy of the many spellings has given up backing terrorism.  For now, at least.

Canada staged the first winter offensive, possibly ever, in Afghanistan, in 2007.

The 'Surge' worked in Iraq, pointing out that COIN can work in societies that were once functional.


All of these are good things that have gone on since 11 SEP 2001, and the US has been involved directly or indirectly in most of them.

Now to the bad side.

The actual source of support for the Taliban is in the Pashtun region that crosses the Af-Pak border, and they have waited out a century of imposed borders by the British and now work cross-border to keep the Taliban alive in Afghanistan.

Inside Pakistan there is the rise of 'The Shadow Army' which is a cross-organization terror group that has contested power in the cities and streets of Pakistan.  It is now possible to purchase the services of a suicide bomber inside Pakistan to blow up commercial rivals, or personal enemies.

London was attacked unsuccessfully once and successfully once, and the source of those attacks is the central Asian group run by Gulbudden Hekmatyar from a refugee camp in Pakistan.

Madrid was attacked by an organization supported by radicalized Muslims that matriculated through the Muslim Brotherhood.

Iran is emboldened by US vacillation and unwillingness to give reprisals for our dead killed by those supported by Iran.

Even as Iranian oil infrastructure crumbles, they seek nuclear devices and delivery vehicles to start greater conflict in the region.

The Islamic Courts Union successfully evacuated Somalia with the help of 'Our Friends' the Saudis.

Yemen has been radicalized.

The ICU is staging a return to Somalia.

The Bank of NY penetration by the Red Mafia, moving over $70 billion dollars in the largest money laundering system ever seen has still not been solved.

Semion Mogilevich's picked successor now runs a natural gas empire large enough to extort money from Iran by threatening to cut off exports to it if they don't cough up more money.

Gulbudden Hekmatyar's group runs a multi-income source operation including gold smuggling, semi-precious stones smuggling, heroin, and operational information to terror cells as far away as London.

In Albania terrorists and organized crime operations cooperate across Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Syria continues to stockpile chemical weapons and utilizes the phosphorus deposits for uranium purification.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the organization that radicalized bin Laden, Zawahiri, and runs HAMAS, continues to be funded by 'Our Friends' the Saudis, and Democratic Congresscritters have had private talks with this radical organization.

Congressmen from both 'sides' of the aisle have flouted the Constitutional powers of the Executive in meeting with the tyrant of Syria, Bashar Asad.

The Tri-Border Area of South America remains uncontrolled and a haven for terrorists from around the planet.

The US Border is still not secured even after evidence of the passage of radicalized members of the Muslim Brotherhood having crossed from Mexico to the US have been found.  Over 6 years ago.

A human smuggling ring operating uninterrupted for years was finally closed down three years ago.  Members smuggled in came from many places including Iran, Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia and other places less savory.

The Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) continues to fund the Taliban, Hekmatyar and others in Pakistan, even as they ally with each other so that monetary favoritism no longer matters.

The current 'Surge' in Afghanistan is in doubt due to US policy timidity and the lack of previously functioning society there since the mid-1970's.

Our President is alienating our closest allies: Britain and Israel.  This is destabilizing in the Middle East and globally.

Our President's outreach to our enemies is seen as weakness and vacillation by them and they are now emboldened by a President incapable of understanding how he is seen globally.

The US, after decades of government backed funding schemes for 'entitlements', housing, higher education and who knows what else, now owes the world more money than exists on the planet.

China has a bubble economy based on the US model, save that it is not just in residential housing, but commercial real estate and industrial infrastructure.  What has gone on in the US will seem tame compared to what is to come with China.


The last time there was a similar confluence of tyrants, attacks, economic destabilization and vacillation by the West the world got the lovely present of World War II.

We are now on that same road, again, save this time it is a 'come as you are' conflict that will be determined by and large in the first half-hour of nuclear fireballs with some extra sweetness of chemical and biological weapons assuredly thrown in by Nation States and private war organizations.

America has forgotten the lesson of Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates and how, exactly, you go after those waging private war.  The elite intellectual class has gotten so intelligent that can't even discuss the topic any more, confounding normal civil crimes things that are illegitimate war and, thusly, war crimes to be addressed by the laws of war.  When we capture 'terrorists' we do not try them as they should be tried under the Geneva Conventions as spies and saboteurs, and are mocked by terrorists telling us we must do our duty.

We do not do our duty to ourselves nor civilization any longer.


We are less safe now than 9 years and 1 day ago.


Not because of what we have done, but because of what we haven't done: treat warfare as warfare and not the breaking of mere civil law.  Civil law is for civilians inside civilized Nation States.  Those waging private war set themselves, by their actions, outside that venue unless they actively seek it to be judged for their actions, which is known as Piracy under the Law of Nations.  Without this understanding we no longer can even conceive of what is necessary to fight them.

We can no longer say those words nor uphold the Law of Nations any longer, because we are taught that civil rights and civil laws cover everything.

They do not.

Warfare is primal and the laws of war are those of Steel.  You have no civil rights when you are at war, and only the venue of warfare will decide your fate by your actions.  Because we have not been taught this we become less civilized, not more, and our ability to be civilized decays when we believe that civil laws can cover everything.  That is termed 'decadence'.

The last civilization to welcome predators in because it believed civil law would take care of them was the Roman Empire.

That didn't end so well for Rome, nor those it was in contact with.

We are also on that path, as well, and so is most of the West.

If we cannot honestly say that such a simple thing as running a Ponzi Scheme to fund Social Security on the backs of our children and grandchildren is unconscionable, immoral and unethical then our chances of honestly facing up to the fact that savage man cannot be covered by civil laws is nil.

I do not like saying this, but we are about to get what ANY civilization gets when it thinks it can calm the storms and lower the oceans, and what comes next is not pretty.

Being civilized means doing the right thing no matter what the cost is.

Not the 'fair' thing as that is in the eye of the beholder and biased.  There is no 'fairness' in life or nature, as that is the nature of the universe we are in.

Doing the right thing requires an example.

It starts with you as each of us is the heart of civilization, the Law of Nations and the fount of all that comes from those things.  Our ancestors as little as one century ago knew that, and yet we no longer teach it, understand it and live it.  We have been made uncivilized by politics and ideology that seeks 'fairness' instead of equality: it seeks entrenched prejudice over simple even-handedness to all.  It encourages you to grab for today and let your children pay for your sins.  There are even those who will smile and tell you that this is 'good'.

It is barbaric.

We will be lucky if we only get Lebanon as a modern Sudetenland.

If we are extremely lucky we will have enough honesty to say: our enemies who declare themselves against us, attack us and seek our downfall are our ENEMIES and deserve the treatment that they so readily ask for.

And if we go beyond all expectations, renounce 'entitlements' and seek the bounty of our liberty to sustain us, we will not see a Dark Age and Iron Times come in our lifetimes nor leave that for our children and grandchildren.  Yet it is we who unwisely knock on the door of chaos thinking it is a 'good thing' to do to grasp for our petty needs and burden those that follow with debts we have no intention of EVER paying off.

Hope is not a strategy.

Luck is not a tactic.

To change the way the world works, you must change your outlook and accept responsibility for your liberty, your freedom and your duties you take on by being civilized and under the Law of Nations.  The longer you wait, vacillate, deny what is in front of your nose, the harder we all will be hit not just in this generation but for many, many, many following who will spit when they talk about us.

Yes it is a hard way to live.

It is better than any other alternative as it tends to keep you alive and civilized by being responsible for yourself.

The reason we are less safe today than 9 years and 1 day ago is because of our inability to do these things.

They are not complex but simple, yet the fallout of good from them can shake the world.

If you dare to be responsible for yourself and demand it of all other humans so that we can press civilization forward against savage man.  We stopped doing that and are pressed back.  We are told that is the consequence of stopping that forward press of self-responsibility.  They made their choices... you can move from being decadent to being civilized.  They told us what happens when you don't.

Rome told us that.

Greece told us that.

Egypt told us that.





03 September 2010

We Shall Suffer

At Big Government's site, Paul A. Rahe has an article looking at Restoring Constitutional Government and it is a telling article in what it says on that need, and what it does not say.  It is a thread tying piece or a 'dot connecting' piece, save that it is not pointing at the dots but the necessary connections between them and then examining how and why they fit together.  The basic analysis of where we are, as a Nation, is sound: founded on principles of federalism plus one of checks and balances (not only within the federal government but between the federal government, States and the people), there is a necessity for a republican form of government, that is multi-branch form of government with divided powers, to be held to account to those it governs.  As Mr. Rahe puts it:

The challenge was straightforward. Polities situated on extended territories sit at a great distance from the vast majority of the people whom they rule. This is consistent with despotism; and if the distance is not too great, it is consistent with legitimate monarchy and the rule of law as well. But for republics it poses a problem. Governments at a distance from the people they rule tend to be invisible; and when human beings are invisible, they tend rightly to suppose that they can get away with a lot. Moreover, large polities tend to face emergencies more often than small polities, and emergencies require from rulers vigor, alacrity, and resoluteness of the sort most easily provided by a man who can act alone. The challenge facing the American Framers was to devise a constitutional structure capable of producing a government fit for meeting emergencies but unlikely to become, as James Madison once delicately put it, “self-directed.”

That requirement for a republic has fallen apart, in ancient times, with distance and disassociation between those who govern and those who are governed by them.  This was a worry at the time of the Framing of the Constitution, and was brought up not only on the Anti-Federalist but the Federalist side as well. When that happens you get despotism and tyranny via a powerful central government system.  In dividing powers, limiting powers and putting checks and balances on powers, the US Constitution was so drafted as to keep that National government to a very few tasks to the benefit of all the States and the people. 

Jerry Pournelle has summed this up in a very different way that our Nation is approached linguistically. 

The old way: 'The United States of America are...'

And the modern way: 'The United States of America is...'

The first recognizes that we are States come together to form a Nation, and thus while we are united we are not unitary.  The second is the unitary approach of a single object, in which there is no recognition of the sub-divisions of the Nation.  When you move from the plural to the singular you are then moving from the familiar and diverse to the distant and singular.  It is a subtle form of address from the backwoods of TN in the early 20th century, but telling in that even until that point the former, diverse outlook view, was the one that held.  Yet that difference between address and how you mentally approach this Nation has a vast gulf between it, and when you want the entire Nation to do something, to follow something, and have no exception to it, you are looking at the singular unit as the diverse pluralistic system does not allow for such easy binning of a Nation to do things.

That change in linguistic approach and the mental attitude behind it changed with the coming of the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century, which fundamentally altered how we approached our Nation and its government, plus our role in it.  The Progressive Amendments to the Constitution changed the power structure and accountability structure in two major ways.

First is the direct taxation of income at different rates, not at a set amount.  Attempts to do this prior to Amendment XVI in 1909 were struck down by the Supreme Court as an over-reach of federal power and something specifically prohibited by the Constitution.  This single provision added to the Constitution gave the federal government the power to tax you directly based on income, and then government could decide how to favor or disfavor sections of the population via the tax code, which could not have been done previously.

Second is the direct election of Senators by the people in Amendment XVII in 1912.  Prior to that time Senators were appointed by the States and acted as representatives of State governments in the federal structure.  Thus their power on treaties and confirming individuals to appointed offices allowed the States to have a direct say into the way this Nation approached other Nations so that no State would be left without a say in those matters.  Once put into place the check and balance against federal power from the States was diminished and the federal government now merely needed assent of representatives and Senators directly elected who did not have ties to State governments.  This effectively put National power into the hands of political parties, to which they were both quite agreeable to take.

Legislatively things were going on which would also begin to centralize power into the federal government.  Following the Hague Convention of 1912, which many evangelical organizations had called for in 1909 to go after the opium trade, came the Narcotics Tax Act of 1914.  Prior to this time all medical laws were State and local run: there had been prohibitions on opium in many cities, just as many cities and States banned the sale of alcohol.  That pluralistic method was one that was in-tune with the Constitution as this was not the domain of the federal system.  The Hague and Shanghai treaties would give the first basis to attempt to gain a federal overview of the narcotics trade to prevent the harm it was doing to society.  Prior to that the federal government had put in place labeling laws so that what went into a product had to be on its label, so you could know what it was you were buying.  There is not much data for the short period of time between that and the Narcotics Tax Act, but what little of it that there is indicated a change in the purchasing habits of citizens away from narcotics laced drinks and medicines.  Unfortunately for many that had suffered war wounds that remained painful (ex. US Civil War, Spanish-American War, Indian Wars) this meant the slow drying up of medications that had the negative effect of addiction and the positive effect of lessening the pain: to those who had already sacrificed we now made them suffer.  By the time of 1914 the Nation was getting the first taste of what the change from 'are' to 'is' would be like, and federal regulations would be crafted to skirt Constitutional requirements so as to get to desired effects: the stamps necessary to purchase marijuana, as an example, were never printed and yet you required one to have marijuana and to register that you had it, a classic 'catch-22' in which you were penalized for having a good without a stamp and could not get the stamp and asking for the stamp with the good landed you in jail because you didn't have the stamp.  While provisions of these early laws were struck down, enough were left to point to the ways the federal government could control substances at a National scale without any say from the State governments involved... as they were no longer involved by that point.  No matter how 'moral' the law is meant to be, it is enacted in one of the most lethal ways to concentrate power and authority into the hands of the few, not keep it dispersed amongst the many.

The next major legislative change came with Public Law 62-5 in 1911.  This law sets a definite size of the House of Representatives in Congress by the fiat chosen number to be the size of the House in 1911.  Prior to that, and the only way mentioned by the Constitution to get representatives was by floating proportion.  The proportion could change but required an Act of Congress to do so.  Floating proportion allowed for the number of representatives to increase as population increased and for a very short period of time the speed of communications was not keeping up with population growth (that would be the last few years this would be true) and it was felt a set-size Congress with States getting seats by their size would be representative enough for all concerned.  This further cemented power in the hands of the political parties as it allowed for the formulation of 'safe districts' via 'gerrymandering' which would see certain sub-regions of the government never get truly contested elections between parties save for major demographic changes... changes which the parties would then adjust their districts for via the Statehouses so as to retain a stranglehold on the concept of 'safe seats'.  This changed the way the citizenry elected representatives, and while we see modern elections in which it is rare that 30% of the incumbents are turned out of office during any election cycle, prior to this legislation it was rare when 30% were returned to office.  Additionally the turn-out for the non-Presidential election years has dropped steadily, consistently since the early 1960's and it is now difficult to get half of those eligible to vote to actually vote, and it is normally far below that percentage and has been for decades.

Get how that 'concentration of power' stuff works, now?

This is, at its heart, divide and conquer politics applied to a limited government, federal system of republican governance.  It has been a multi-pronged, decades long offensive against divided, limited government that is decentralized and leaves power in the hands of individuals.  The heart of Progressivism is that in a 'modern' State it is the largest government that is best fit to rule and, to that end, the input of the citizenry reduces the effectiveness of the bureaucracy and enforcement of its rules and edicts.  Complaints against the older, limited government form of State was that it wasn't active enough, intrusive enough and even had problems getting a quorum together in the Senate, meaning the government's functions often went unfunded for months.  The government, in order to be effective, needed a way to ensure that representative democracy was 'streamlined' so that the 'modern' State could be 'more efficient' and manage National affairs from its level.

This notion derives from the conceptual framework of the socialist end-state ideal of the State in which the workers become enlightened, throw off the capitalist class and create a dictatorship of the proletariat.  That form seen in the First International was the 'hands off' form of socialism as it utilized a viewpoint that as capitalism spread it required a more informed working class to operate and that would serve as the seeds of its own destruction.  That would take time, decades or even centuries, but was an assured outcome.  The Second International moved to a position of being able to nudge or otherwise 'help' capitalism to come to its end, faster, and to blunt the worst abuses of it.  Both of these international congresses of socialists agreed that this would take place in industrialized Nations, first, and then spread from them.  It is in this era between the Second and Third (or Communist) congresses that Progressivism takes off: before WWI and the rise of Communism in Russia.  Progressivism takes part in these 'futurist' and 'modern' views of the State which was born in the mid-19th century as part of an end times views that were showing up in religion, as well.  In many ways socialism is a religious movement with beliefs that man is both good and perfectible, and that such perfection will only come with enlightenment at the end of the capitalist system.  Further Progressivism puts forward that the State can take a pro-active role in fostering that end and enforce moral views of the already 'enlightened'.  Mind you the number of splinter groups, factions, off-shoots and such that are spawned by the 'enlightened' tend to demonstrate that the only central theme they can agree on is power for the 'enlightened' to bring 'enlightenment' to the masses.

What is fascinating is that those paleo-socialists had a fundamental criticism with this approach: it doesn't work and actually makes things worse, and does not bring about the end-state desired by socialists.

Their reasoning is fundamental: capitalism must do its good works in the way of education, spreading jobs, and uplifting the working class from absolute poverty.  Capitalism is not a purely negative force in this view, and that it has a logic to it based on the personal basis of capitalism which gives it flexibility and adaptability.  Nation States are the exact opposite in being rigid, inflexible and unable to adapt to much of anything.  When later socialists attempt to marry socialism to capitalism at the Nation State level what you do not get is a path to socialism but a path to the worst form of capitalism around, which is State Capitalism.  With the power of the Nation State behind capitalism, all the good parts of the capitalist system are removed and the State then becomes tyrannical against the working class and forces it to submit to whatever it will pay for work and there are no incentives to improve the system for material goods or moral reasons.  The pursuit of power becomes its own end-state, and when centralized in a government that has co-opted private capitalism, it is an un-enlightened end-state as those within it (no matter their intentions) succumb to the path of power to enforce everything.  Instead of the State withering and dying in the new socialist end-state, it flourishes and crushes the working class to the ends of its ruling class.

By that internal reasoning of the old line socialists what we see, today, is the work to remove the restraints upon government to intervene in the Nation's economic affairs.  'Radicals' of the sort seeking to tear down the system to re-make it are not on a path of any sort of 'progress' in any venue.  Their objective of removing economic liberty so as to enforce political doctrine means that individuals are not 'enlightened' but 'organized' to the ends of the State.  And while man may be good, as individuals, the Nation State is seen as an embodiment of negative capacity as that is necessary for the survival of not only capitalism but all prior systems.  The illogic of not having a Nation State and still having a centralized ruling organization is never addressed by socialists nor by the somewhat more distributed anarchosyndicalists who still see a need for a larger decision system.  This is the sort of stuff that passes for 'enlightenment' amongst socialists, communists, progressives and liberals, when they can formulate their ideas into words. 

By trying to use chaos to bring about political order such destructive progressivists and liberals miss what has happened previously in the form of human liberty to associate and create new social order that is not created from the top, but from the bottom.  Such knowledge is already in the hands of the majority of the population and forms the basis for our understanding of distributed decision-making as seen in the works of Hayek in modern times and as far back Founding of the United States with Franklin, Washington and Monroe.  This foundation of understanding is not modern and is rooted in the understanding that the Nation State is not an outgrowth of systems (capitalist, mercantalist, feudal, imperial, etc.) but of human relationships started at the lowest level between individuals.  This concept is spoken of as the jus gentium or Law of Nations, which is unwritten but derives from Nature and our ability to think and feel for each other.  As unwritten law it can be written but is non-binding, save for what Nature places upon you.  Thus when we read about ancient cultures that have had little to no contact with each other (ex. Ancient Greece, Chinese Empires, Mayan Empire, Incan Empire) or that have formed separately from each other with little cultural continuity in time or space, we still find the basics of how humans act at this scale to come forward.  If you read about diplomats or emissaries between States you instantly know that there is protocol between these States, recognition of boundaries (although those may be in dispute), recognition that the cultures are separate and have differing cultures, and that there is a system of exchanges that backs such stories in history.

When Marxists, socialists, progressivists, and statists put forward that the State is the pinnacle of human achievement and that it can look after all people within it on a personal basis, you are seeing a rejection of Natural Law and derived historical understanding about how humanity operates.  States are not imposed from the top, downwards, but built from the bottom, upwards.  It is not possible to tip the pyramid on its head and insist that the State pre-exists humans and creates humans to live within it and that is the upshot of uplifting to State to a pinnacle of superiority and believing that all power emanates from it, and not from the people within it.  From that socialists of the oldest First International sort are correct in their criticism that later socialists/communists/progressivists/liberals are creating a system that is worse than private capitalism by making the State the ruling part of it, but they, in turn, are misguided by believing that the State can be dissolved at any point by not recognizing that human nature creates States and Nations as a natural part of human interaction.  To their end, then, they must diminish human culture and ties so as to institute their end-state.  Unfortunately the description of man ruled due to being in a condition of continual anomie towards his fellow man is not one of a utopia, but one that is best described as animal savagery.  For every 'good' the State does 'for' you, takes up 'for' you, and puts you at a distance from your responsibilities, you are degraded in a step-wise process from a functioning person creating a society to an animal accepting hand-outs from a State until you finally get fed up with that and bite the hand that feeds you.

On the large scale I have already described how that has worked, to remove limits on government, take off the checks designed to hold it in place, and to make it powerful enough to dictate your economic choices by political fiat via the tax code.  That is only the start of the process of getting the individual, that is you, to be dependent upon government.

Consider the proposition that you are asked to take money from your children and grandchildren to support yourself.  You would consider that a desperate situation to be in, no?  And you would ask your children and grandchildren for support, not just take it from them, right?  It would not only be immoral to steal from them, but unethical as these are your children that you have cared for and loved, and wish to see have a happy life.  Stealing from them, especially early in their working life, would hurt them immensely and make it nearly impossible for them to stay above water, financially, and would make them poorer, later in life, as they could use their earnings early in life to help create a better wealth stream for themselves later in life.  The damage would be great not only in the present, but in the future as well.

The system of Social Security, run through the SSA, is just that, with some frills of a Ponzi Scheme added in, with a front man telling you there is a secure, interest earning 'lock box' that when you put your money into it, it is 'safe'.  Unfortunately that 'lock box' has a false bottom in it, and when you see the front man taking the money from it and putting an IOU in it for your cash plus interest, you realize that the front man has told you a lie.  Like any good Ponzi Scheme he is fleecing a large number of people so that when a few do need their money he can just re-cycle current funds over to the people with IOUs.  When you see that the number of people that he can fleece is going to be dropping below what those who are demanding payment want, however, you begin to suspect that your IOU is worthless.  Particularly galling is to see one's children paying into that scheme when you know it cannot, possibly, pay for your IOUs and that theirs are worthless scraps of paper as the scheme will soon implode.  Maybe you will be lucky and be dead by then, right?

There is no way to 'fix' this system as demographics and population size to output needs invalidates it, as it does all Ponzi Schemes.  Changing the 'pay out' date by pushing back your retirement by some years is not a 'fix' but an attempt for you to take money from your children and others in society to pay off the promised IOU.  In attempting to 'get yours' you will just shift the shaft from yourself to your children, when you know that the system is broken.  It is immoral and unethical to do that when you have the power within you to change the system and not accept the 'payouts' and to then ignore the system, entirely, and treat it as a form of tax used to curry favor amongst a segment of the population: because that is what Social Security is.  It is a tax used to give money to an older generation that should have been saving to meet their own future needs and taking that money from the younger working generation that desperately needs it.  Since your thievery is via government, that allows you to wash your hands of the taint of being a thief.  And yet your agreement to the system makes you part of it, does it not?

That creates long term suffering in the way of debt that we pass on to our children when it is our responsibility to pay off our debts and not to burden our children with it.  In not enforcing our responsibilities upon ourselves, in not demanding that taxation for favoritism stop because we might be beneficiaries of it (if we are 'lucky'), we agree to create our own suffering.  And as government has no need to be thrifty, nor can it 'invest' its funds, it loses money between what you 'pay in' and what you 'get', along with bureaucratic overhead which also eats into the 'benefits'.  It costs money for other people to look after you, and when government does it they do it 'good enough for government work'.

We suffer as a society so government can be 'nice' to us individuals.

So long as you like being treated by a government functionary as a supplicant, that is, for that is what you have become.

Yet that is not the role of government, is it?

To turn you into a third-hand thief and supplicant, is that what your goal is in life, especially late in life?

That is the road to savagery not civilization, isn't it?

So what is the way out of this?

The way out is the path of Restoration for you, and I have described that in another piece.

It is the path of personal Honor.

Personal Sacrifice.

Personal Liberty.

That is a hard way to live, yes, but the alternative is too horrific to contemplate.