Archive for June, 2010

Afghanistan and Choices

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that at this point in Afghanistan the United States as a nation has to ask itself one question; Is the USA a nation, that when it is attacked, goes and knocks over the anthill. Or a nation that knocks over the anthill, then rebuilds it, so the ants never need attack it again?

History sorts out the good from the bad. Even though the victors write history… Time edits it. History will reflect the stomach of those that live today. No one looks back at destroyers with ennui. No, they look back with horror. We all love builders. Those that rebuild that which they have had to destroy… But better.

In 1700BC there was a people in India called the Harappan. They had indoor toilets and well built cities. All their cities were laid out the same. Streets at given widths depending on the usage. With a writing system that has never been figured out. The only examples of which are stone obelisks and tombs.

The Harappan people disappeared around 1500BC. They didn’t seem to have fallen to conquerors. There is a lack of archeological evidence. There has been some archeological evidence that they were fleeing from something. There is speculation a natural disaster wiped them out. But their disappearance is a mystery.

No matter the cause the cities abandoned by the Harappan were then inhabited by others. Barbarians by their standards. The new inhabitants then had access to all the accoutrements of the Harappan people. But never came close to emulating the Harappan level of technology. (Or standard of living).

The new people had access to the things of the Harappan but didn’t have the philosophy of the Harappan. Therefore they could only diminish in standard of living once the philosophy was disengaged from the technology. The point being that the philosophy is more important than the stuff of a civilization.

By not only rebuilding the stuff of Afghanistan America should instill some new philosophies there. Like ethical government service. Government corruption being utterly corrosive of liberty. The corruption in the government of Afghanistan is epic. According to reports from Afghanistan.

If the philosophy of ethical government service is all the Americans instill in the people it will have been a resounding victory. Ethical government service would lead to all goods coming to the people of Afghanistan. No amount of charity can give to them what this philosophy has to offer.

Rebuilding roads is good. Building schools for the Taliban to blow up may be helpful. But rebuild the people’s confidence in their government and you have won a victory. One that will destroy the Taliban with more alacrity than unbridled violence ever could. But to have an impact on one’s allies and one’s foes one must appear to be iron willed in the endeavor. They are putting their lives on the line.

I heard John McCain say something presidential for the first time today. He said “no one follows a half hearted trumpet.” That is an excellent point. Had Patrick Henry said Give me liberty or give me a warm bed. It wouldn’t have had the oomph. The colonials wouldn’t have followed him… If Winston Churchill had said “Aw…Jerry’s not so bad lets just go have a pint.” …we might have had to live under a socialist government.

No amount of stuff, violence or talk can give to the people of Afghanistan what one little change in their ethos can… Peace, Prosperity and true Piety.

Adam Smith and Recent Chinese history… on the American Elite

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that Adam Smith once said;

“The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, [money], would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatsoever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

The wisdom of this single statement is profound. What Adam Smith is saying is that government officials cannot be trusted to control private money. Their self interests will get in the way. He goes on to say that to do so is even dangerous of liberty. We have seen over and over the prophetic nature of this quote.

Today we see China… the first Maoist State. It has entered the world economic stage as a Capitalist nation. The Middle Kingdom is becoming a world superpower. Exactly because the autocratic government there has let the Chinese people have use of their own capital.

China has come from a total communist state with rampant starvation to a wealthy industrial powerhouse. This immense change couldn’t have happened, had the Chinese government, that had been steeped in communist ideology, not woken up and released their grip… and let the people control their own money.

After all isn’t money simply a convenient representation of work? You exchange units of work value for other units of work value. In this exchange both interests are raised. The communist government of China woke up to this fact, and, with great courage they changed paths.

This change in paths has resulted in the greatest rise in the standard of living of mankind in the shortest time ever.  All by letting people do what they want with their own money. Simply because a government let up it’s grip on the people…

No one hear is saying China has no problems with it’s government… Far be it from me. The rise in it’s militaristic attitude, It’s quashing of free speech, Tiananmen Square the list goes on and on. No… the government in China is totalitarian. Nevertheless, it has made some good choices… it has allowed the free market to work. The consequences of this cannot be denied.

We see what a great man once said… and we see the evidence of his clairvoyance in front of out eyes. Yet the Elite in America claim that capitalism is dead. Like Nietzsche claiming God is dead. The claim presupposes the consequence but the consequence makes the claim impossible… making them both an impossibility.

To what end are they uttering such an absurdity? To lay claim to more and more of the people’s capital. The Elite seem to think that there is no level of taxation and intrusion that is too much. The healthcare intrusion’s effects haven’t even been felt by most people and the Elite want to forge ahead with their plan to; Cap and trade, raise taxes, increase regulation of every sector of the economy, etc…

With the undeniable evidence of China… Why are the American Elite, engaging in this… taking of the people’s economic sovereignty? Or “direct(ing) private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals“, as Adam Smith Said it…

Abraham Lincoln once claimed in a debate; that he didn’t need to be told that a house was being built… He could tell, simply by looking… I bet most people can. But they have to open their eyes and look.

Heroism or Villainy… Depends on your perspective.

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Dear Friends,

I read that Chuang Chou (the Taoist) once said;

“Not only so. There is a great awakening, and then we shall know that all this (present experience) is a great dream. Fools, However regard themselves as awake now-so personal is their knowledge. It may be as a prince or it may be as a herdsman, but so sure of themselves! Both the Master (Confucius) and you are dreaming; And when I describe you as dreaming I am also dreaming. And these words of mine are paradoxical: That is the name for them. And a myriad of generations will pass before we meet a sage who can explain this, and when we meet him it will be the evening of our little day.”

If we are dreaming then it means that there is a great purpose to our being here. When we awake from the dream we will be enlightened from our dream. Our dream (lives) have meaning.

What meaning and to what end. There are as many answers to that question as there are askers. But to ask and ponder is close to getting it right. Perhaps the meaning… is to question the meaning. To live the lives we wish and fulfill the prerequisites of the dream. Maybe if the dream’s goals are not fulfilled we must re-enter the dream and try again. (Isn’t that close to what Buddhist’s and Hindu’s believe?)

But I ask you… How does you dream affect the other dreamers? Does the logical outcome of your actions improve the experience of the other dreamers or diminish the experience? We all have an effect on the experience of the others whether we admit it or not.

Coriolanus (Gaius Marcus) was a man who wanted the admiration of his fellows. But he disdained doing anything to bend to their needs. He was responsible almost single handedly for the taking of the Capital of Volscia, Corioli. Then turned the same day to attack the elite center of the Volscian relief Army. Smashed them and ran down, badly wounded, the survivors. He then refused any money, gold or booty from the ransacked city, except for a horse and clemency for a Volscian friend. That is where he got the surname “Coriolanus“.

He then ran for Consul… and lost. (Due to his arrogance). This turned him bitter. When he tried to get the People’s Tribunes ejected from the Senate during a time of famine… the people were incensed. They charged Coriolanus with usurpation. He answered the charges with such arrogance that the people were further ired and voted to exile Coriolanus. As a result he was ostracized from Rome fled to Volscia. From the head of a Volscian Army he rained ruin on Roman interests. After the war, he was murdered, by a partisan Volscian crowd, at a meeting to make account of his action’s, against the Romans, in the late war. His murderer’s then started a new war with Rome and died in it. A war in which Rome retook all the land Caius Marcius took from her… and avenged his murderer. The circle was complete. Plutarch compared the life of Coriolanus with Alcibiades.

Looking at this story from the perspective that we are all simply dreaming… We see that Coriolanus visited ruin on his brothers and sisters. Simply from a feeling of revenge. Although Coriolanus would have been livid were he treated the way he treated the Roman People he had no sense of irony that he should get revenge on people that he would have treated much harsher had he been in their position. He expected better treatment from others than he was willing to give.

His dream was short, violent, and he met a bad end. All because he held others to a different (Higher) standard than he held himself. (Except in war). He and many others paid the price for his nightmare.

There are many like him alive today. They only await the opportunity to avenge themselves on society for a slight that they give out daily… So personal is their knowledge…

We Judge Others By Ourselves

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that people judge others by themselves. The best template we have to place others in is the one we ourselves have forged… And it is the one we know best.

That is why a thief is the most afraid of being stolen from. A liar always believes everyone is lying to them and an adulterer always is the most afraid of having someone cheat on them. It is in our nature. We all have faults and we project them on others.

That is one of the reasons that the uber rich are progressive if not actually communists. They believe that everyone is as heartless as they are. To them it is impossible to believe that another person would do a virtuous thing. Then turn around and do another. There has to be a catch. They themselves always have a hook. Basically they are the avatar of the man Thrasymachus and Nietzsche believed in.

Like Nietzsche’s book The Will to Power. (A dark book that chills the soul to read). Nietzsche is smart enough to know the tribulations en route and the end of the road that he proposes. Yet he goes ahead and proposes it. The path and the end is chaos. A state of perpetual war… man against man. Victory to the cleverest, strongest or most political. Mankind would very quickly shed the accoutrements that are given to us by our social nature. Like housing, ready access to food, transportation, heated homes, etc…

People of this ilk often become extremely rich. But not all extremely rich people are of this ilk, i.e. sociopaths. The ones that are however have the ability to sow much mischief in the world. Placing all mankind in the same box as themselves they can only see total government to curb mankind’s total greed. They have no concept that others have no desire for riches beyond what makes them comfortable. Beyond that to make one comfortable further riches only serve to gain more security. But at an acceleratingly diminishing rate of return. At some point the wealthy Neitzchian would get a better return, (in improvement in his or her lot in life), by investing it in science research. The security and improvement in the standard of living would accrue to him as well as society. And could possibly lengthen his or her life span.

What about Power? The ultimate goal of the self centered. Power rover others. Power to coerce action at another’s expense simply for the satisfaction of some whim. Like old king Di Xin, he, reportedly, had a pool filled with wine and ruled by his whim… Once Caesar and some friends were riding past a small filthy French town. His friends said to Caesar, “How would you like to live in such a wretched place?” To which Caesar replied, “I would rather rule there that serve in Rome.” Later Caesar overturned the Republican system that had served Rome well for most of a millennium.

If this is the template that you judge others by… Isn’t your view going to be skewed? If I am a self centered despot in waiting… I will think everyone else is too. When I get power I will gear my input on law to reflect my view of humanity. (Based on myself).

These are the Elite. The ten percent of any group that will take control. (The dross floats to the top). Rarely is someone put into power who did not seek it. Numa Pompey is the only one who comes to mind. (And that tale is probably more myth than reality). So When almost everyone who writes law is an utterly self centered, despot in waiting, is it hard to explain why we have law that is always written with an eye to serve some faction?

Lately every law, that is written and passed in the USA, is expressly for a faction against the overall good. Take the “Health Care overhaul”. It has as it’s purpose to redistribute wealth. From those that have health care to those that don’t. The actual reason the people don’t have it is never addressed. Except a background hum that they are poor. (The poor already had healthcare under Medicaid). Reality was never allowed into the debate.

The result will be much higher cost of healthcare for every American. Lower standard of care for normal Americans. A higher rate of structural unemployment… Among other negative effects. The Elite however will have no diminishments in their health care. They have a separate system. The rest of us are forced into the government “choices” by law. The Elite are not.

With Elitist theory, as I have explained, we can clearly see why…

But, I am told, there is no need of a NUMA.

BP Disaster in the Gulf

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that the reason punishment is meted out, is to ensure that a given negative action, taken by a perpetrator, is not repeated. Punishment is a means to stop a cause. Punishment is not a means to enrich government. It is not a means to increase the power of a political Elite nor is it a means to keep a group down.

Another important factor to take into account is the actual perpetrator should be the one punished. Punishing an innocent bystander is not effective at stopping behavior in a person who has no morals. To be effective, punishment must be meted out to the perpetrator. To do otherwise renders it utterly ineffective.

Take the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It continues to be a politicized environmental catastrophe. News reports indicate that millions of barrels of oil have been released into the water. Underwater plumes of oil are fouling dolphins and coral. Beaches are in dire threat of being overrun with oil and tar. The entire ecosystem in the gulf is reeling under the weight of this disaster.

There are now reports that BP had a culture of intimidation when it came to bringing up safety concerns. Employees who voiced a safety question were routinely intimidated and harassed by management. This in direct conflict with every manual and the corporate safety philosophy. I.e.… Safety before production.

Many are calling for punishing BP. Withholding future leases in US waters. Perhaps stopping present leases and forcing BP to pay for all the environmental cleanup as well as huge fines. Perhaps to the point of bankrupting the company to make an example of it.

Who would be punished in this scenario? The shareholders of the company. BP is a dividend paying company, so, it is primarily held by retirees. I suspect retirees in Briton. So all the punishments put forward so far have been financial against BP. The only interests damaged in this scenario are those of retirees. Innocent bystanders…

Would the managers that created the, anti safety, corporate environment be punished? No… probably not. Under the most draconian scenario they would have to get another job. (No other scenario has a negative consequence). With a background in oil and production they would probably get a lateral transfer to another company. Those who have the most hubris will probably get promotions at another company. Where they can spread their insidious effect on the safety mindset to another company… like a virus.

I personally don’t think this would help improve the safety of oil drilling in US waters. In fact I imagine that it could make matters worse. The incentives line up that way. No matter how draconian government treats BP it will not lessen the likelihood of a future catastrophe.

So what to do? Well here’s a thought… Punish the people that created the corporate attitude minimizing safety. Criminally punish the managers that caused the disaster… What incentive would this set up for future corporations drilling in US waters?

Corporations are made up of human beings. Self interested maximizes. The managers who have made it to the top are generally pretty crafty. To effect the way a corporation works you have to effect the way the managers think. If a manager thinks, with no malevolence, that safety should suffer to production, that manager should have an example of another who thought the same thing. If that example is a promotion what is the incentive? If the example is, quality time in jail, what incentive does this set? Moreover what is the aggregate corporate incentive, in the future, towards safety?

The means to protect the environment is not to bankrupt BP… It is to criminally charge the managers that set up the corporate ethos that production trumps safety. In direct contravention of BP’s stated policy.

Get the incentives right and this will never happen again. Get the incentives wrong and you insure a repeat.

Thousands of Years of History… Have we Learned Anything?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that when a nation pretends a crime was not committed by a leader because it would have to act… puts that nation in great peril.

If a powerful political leader was to commit a crime. Clearly and obviously… Like bribing another politician with a position in government for some favor. This is obviously not in the public good. Clearly it is (or should be) a violation of law. And it undermines the concept of meritocracy in government. Then that politician should be treated as the law requires.

To let that politician get away with some lame excuse like they are ignorant of the law or everyone does it is to guarantee that laws will be broken in the future with greater harm to the body politic.

To argue that the politician is ignorant of the law and thus cannot be held to it makes a mockery of law. If the person who writes the law and enacts the law cannot know it. And therefore cannot be held to it. How much more unfair is it to hold the average citizen to it? If the law is so complex and arcane that a lawgiver cannot know it then it is impossible for a citizen to know it. How then do you hold citizens to law they cannot know? Try playing a game where your opponent knows the rules but you don’t. Now don’t even hold them to the rules you know… how would that turn out?

To argue that everyone does it is to argue that everyone is corrupt. If that is the case society has profound problems. But no one who uses this argument, in government, ever gives examples. If they did then the other politicians would be prosecuted. Like a gang of drug dealers. If one is caught… would he get away with saying… “everyone does it.” If he did give examples, the drug enforcement unit will swoop down, and arrest them. But the first would still face prosecution. Why is it that we expect more from drug dealers than we do our leaders?

Some argue, “well, you have the vote.” Assuming the people in question actually have suffrage and it is fairly counted. So using an analogy, if a baseball player has a contract that expires every three years. He commits some crime in his first year. The team has the option, in three years, to fire him? Does that make sense to you? Again, in this case, we hold our leaders to a lower standard that we do someone who chases a ball around a field for a living.

When people in power misuse their power. We all suffer. But how much more egregious when a politician abuses his power in public? With no negative consequences?

So, given the profound negative impact of not holding our leaders to the law. Law that we are held to. Why do we withhold consequences from the actions of our leaders? Because we personally know our leaders. We may not actually have met them but we know them personally. We voted for them. We might have pounded pavement for them. We have sunk cost in them. So we have empathy for them…. Empathy that is not shared. For every act of mercy visited on a leader ten million acts of injustice are visited on the people.

Look at Tarquinius Superbus. Despite his arbitrary evils he was exiled not executed. In fact even in exile he visited evil on Rome. But still lived. The pattern has been repeated through history.

Shouldn’t we finally put a stop to it?

Or have we remained motionless in three thousand years… and are happy to remain?

You Are What You Think

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that you are what you think. The more a person dwells on a single subject the more their minds form to that subject. The mind being very plastic.

So when the German people in the 1920’s and 1930’s were inculcated that all their problems were the fault of the Jews and Gypsies… they dwelt on the subject. It was in the air all the time in that era and place. The German societal myth warped. Bringing about the conditions where the Gypsies were wiped out with no one left to remember them. Far worse than the Armenians or Jews. The Gypsies were annihilated.

This doesn’t mean that the German people were bad… The philosophy they followed was bad. Because they thought, to the exclusion of other things, on race.

Good intentions can be turned to bad results this way. When a person dwells on some injustice, to the exclusion of other things, it warps their minds. Their mind folds into compliance with the notion. It takes away their sense of magnitude and relativity. You and I feel that what we dwell on has more import than it actually may have. The simple act of thinking about a subject can make the subject more important to us than it really is.

So a person who is obsessed with the injustice to a group eventually gives this injustice godhood. It consumes them and they eventually can think of nothing else without extreme effort. What impact on their lives do you think this has?

When you feel this strongly about an injustice, even though it may have happened long ago, it is easy to believe that injustice must be met with injustice. Do to the former perpetrator that which he did. Even though the perpetrator may be long dead. If this is the case… find a suitable group to mete your injustice on. There is never a lack of suitable people to mete out injustice to. Look around the world.

Why do the Jews mete out injustice to the Palestinians? Why do the Palestinians mete out injustice to the Jews? Why did and do the Hutu’s mete out injustice to the Tutsi’s? And Vice versa? The pattern is repeated around the World in many forms and in many ways. The single common factor is that a group of people dwell on some injustice. This leads them to meet injustice with injustice.

So when we think about an injustice, A highly emotional thought, we tend to dwell on it. The more we dwell… Therefore it is in our best interest to try to keep balance. To meet injustice with injustice is to immortalize injustice.

Does anyone think that the annihilation of the Gypsies led to less injustice in the world? What about the Hutu’s annihilation of the Tutsi’s’? No it has only led to further injustice. Cambyses son of Cyrus the Great moved whole nations of people in forced migrations. To satisfy his sense of justice. Did this result in less injustice in the World? No it didn’t. And it never will.

Chuang Chuo the doctor of the Tao said;

“A Penumbra asked a Shadow, saying, “There are times When you are moving, times when you are at rest: times when you sit down, times when you stand up. Why do you not work out one method and stick to it?” The Shadow said, “Am I dependent on something else for being what I am? (if so) is the something else on which I am dependent… itself dependent on something else for being what it is?”

One cause leading to another in an endless stream of injustices. The only way to stop the results are to interrupt the causes… To meet injustice with injustice is never righteous.

If you dwell, on racism, you become a racist… What is the Cause in that sentence?

Stone Walls and Government

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that when you build a stone wall it is important to start with small stones for the base. As even as possible. They determine the foot print so they should be set within a bounded area. I usually use paint to denote the edges of the wall. Then the stones are placed to make a foundation within the bounds…

The next course is where you can be more creative. In this course it is important to select rocks that will set between the lower rocks so that their weight is resting on at least two stones. Another important selection point is that at least two, but three is better, should pile to the same height. This allows the next course to set on at least two, or more, stones below. You continue in this vein until the correct height is achieved.

Some tricks are to make sure the flat faces are pointing outside… to give a more pleasing look. Mix the sizes as much as possible. And fill in large voids with crushed and washed stone. This is the theme in building stone walls. They are planned, they are interlocking, (one on two and two on one), and if they are well built they can last for centuries.

The function of a stone wall is to separate an area from another area. In this it is useful to know the level of separation needed. This will enlighten us as to the height to build it. If the function is purely aesthetic then a low square wall is attractive. If we want to get fancy we can build a wall to the Fibrunacci rectangle. This makes the wall even more appealing to the eye.

Governments are like stone walls in that they have a foundation (constitution), they have structure, (bureaucracy) and they have function.

The Constitution is supposed to bound in the government. Like the paint and string bound in the stone wall a constitution is supposed to bound in government. The efficient function of a stone wall is negatively effected by making it larger than it need be. If a wall needs to be three courses wide… It is most efficient to make it three courses wide. But it will have no positive effect (on function) to make it four or five courses wide. That will only take room that could have been productively used (as tillage or livestock) to be tied up under a wall. Government is no different. If the constitution is ignored and the government grows outside the limits put on it by the constitution it looses efficient function.

The bureaucracy of government is like the courses up the wall. If they are poorly placed and the stones all come to a different height then the wall will be deficient. The stones will be piled one on another. Like columns of stones side by side. This is very unstable and will seldom last for more than one winter. Like this, poorly thought out bureaucracy is unstable, and seldom utile.

Lets say a stone wall is poorly constructed… It falls over. Is it more efficient to haul more stones in and re-pile the old stones in the same deficient way? Then build a supplementary wall adjacent to the first (using the same shoddy workmanship) to bolster the first?

Of course not. It is the height of insanity. It is more work for a less efficient and less stable product. The wall will only have more stone to re-pile next year. Unless the wall is torn down and rebuilt. Parliamentary government is like this. It falls over regularly and must be re-piled.

Now what if we have a perfectly useable stone wall. It is effective at keeping our livestock from our garden. But we want to make it even better. Does it make sense to add to our wall taking up valuable garden space? Only if the utility gained outweighs the loss in productive land. What about expanding into our pasture? The same calculation should be done there. (For the farmer to be rational). It seems that the base (constitution) should not be overstepped else function is harmed.

So the only way to expand our wall is to go up. (Add to the bureaucracy). But a stone wall is only stable if the height doesn’t exceed the width by fifty percent. (In my experience) beyond that walls become unstable and require more and more maintenance. Government is no different. Too much bureaucracy and government becomes a burden to society.

From this analogy we can glimpse the in our minds eye the ratio of government size structure and footprint to it’s effect on society. It provides us with a template.

I hope it helps…