Friday, March 24, 2017

No, Not At All

Gordon Tullock used to taunt anarchists by asserting that if the USA abolished its government, people would not have to worry about the Russians taking over the country because “the Mexicans would get here first.”

This little story actually incorporates a common objection to anarchy—namely, the idea that because, if a country abolished its government, other countries would not necessarily follow suit, the governments of those other countries would be free to, and would, simply take over the country that, lacking a government, also lacked an effective means of defending itself against takeover by a foreign power.

This thinking presumes at least two critical ideas: first, that defense of a population requires a government that rules that population; and, second, that if a government has the power to take over another country, it will do so.

As for the first assumption, it seems clear that a national government may prove an ineffective means of defense in any event, as many governments have demonstrated through the ages. Moreover, it is certainly conceivable that decentralized measures of defense, such as pervasive guerrilla groups operating more or less independently, might prove effective in preventing a foreign takeover.

As for the second assumption, the persistence of many small countries with weak governments, even in today’s world, certainly calls into question the idea that effectively defenseless countries cannot persist. Surely Brazil has the means to conquer Uruguay, but it does not do so. Surely Germany or France has the means to conquer Belgium, but neither does so. And so forth in regard to many other countries. Governments have various good reasons for refraining from such possible conquests.

Thus, even if the Mexicans could get to the USA first, it is by no means certain that they would choose to do so. And if they did invade the USA, it is by no means certain that they would succeed in the conquest they sought.
Not that I consider myself anywhere near the same class as Robert Higgs, but I have been making the very same points for many years.  To the specific point that many people make to the fact that small countries are not invaded now is that America is the power that will protect all.  This is the classic "American Exceptionalism" and/or "American Hegemony" argument.  My reply is simply this: "you really believe this?"  "Yes" is the usual reply, to which I respond "sorry to hear that". 

Yes

Is McCain beyond His Prime?  There is a pasture calling his name, somewhere.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Value of a US Dollar

Few people know this fact: the U.S. dollar has a specifically defined value.  I did not know this until I saw Ron Paul ask Ben Bernanke the question at a congressional hearing many years back.  While it makes perfect sense now, the fact that I did not know this until I was in my 40's is a disgrace.

So, what is this defined value?: "A dollar is defined as 0.85 ounces of silver".




The important takeaway is the information at the bottom.  FYI: "FRN" stands for federal reserve notes, that is, paper money.

On 3/22/2017, 0.85 ounces of silver (24.0971 grams) = $17.52 (Pure silver).  For the record, I need to do more research on whether the price is based on pure silver or sterling.

Here's the site I used to obtain the value.

An Opening Salvo on Public Pensions

Well, there have been other pension cuts in recent years, but this will become the norm, as I've repeatedly stated on this soapbox of mine.  Politicians can, and do, promise the world, and gladly sprinkle fairy dust as the overwhelming majority of their constituents likewise convince themselves to believe in magic.  Well, there's no more road left upon which to kick the can.  As my wife always says: "everything's fine until it isn't" ... welcome to "it isn't". This country has trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and the bill is coming due.  Cruel cuts signal pension crisis:
For a small but probably growing number of California’s government workers, the worst-case scenario is here: The failure to adequately fund public pensions is leading to devastating reductions in their promised retirement benefits. If the pension problem were a cloud of carbon monoxide, there would be no more need to wait for a canary to keel over.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System board could vote next week to cut the benefits of nearly 200 former employees of a Southern California job-training agency by 63 percent. It would be CalPERS’ second such decision in a few months: The board voted in November to make comparable reductions to the benefits of five former employees of the tiny Sierra Nevada city of Loyalton, the agency’s first pension cut in memory. Retirees from two other small agencies could face similarly unforgiving consequences of others’ irresponsibility.

The pending reduction, reported by Bloomberg, affects the onetime workforce of the defunct East San Gabriel Valley Human Services Consortium, also known as LA Works, an agency formed by four Los Angeles County cities in 1976. In 2014, the county, LA Works’ chief source of support, found extensive irregularities in its performance and billing and ended its contracts, effectively killing the agency.

Officials of the founding cities — West Covina, Glendora, Covina and Azusa — have callously washed their hands of the stranded debt to the pension system. CalPERS is expected to slash the benefits promised to LA Works retirees rather than cover the shortfall, which would set a dangerous precedent and dip into funds paid by responsible governments.

CalPERS’ earlier decision came after Loyalton dropped out of the system, producing a bill for the remaining liabilities that was bigger than the town’s annual budget. Like the Southern California agency’s debt, it went unpaid.

The resulting small catastrophes differ in detail and degree but not kind from the possibilities awaiting other governments that have been more enthusiastic in their promises to employees than in their contributions to the system. Even those that have kept up with their contributions are behind partly thanks to the recession and unrealistic investment return projections, which CalPERS has only begun to deal with by reducing its target rate by half a percentage point, to 7 percent.

The decimated pensions are not only the latest of countless warnings to irresponsible officials. They’re also a reminder that in the worst cases, government retirees, many of whom depend on modest benefits, face the brunt of the repercussions. Union leaders who would rather trade recriminations with officials than reach accommodations aren’t serving such members well. The moral high ground is no substitute for a pension.

One for History and Privacy Buffs

Interesting link courtesy of Bruce Schneier on NSA Documents from before 1930.  Cool to read through.

Just In From the Department of WTF!

Judge Orders Google to Hand over Data on Anyone Who Searched for a Certain Name.  The implications of this order are immense and cannot be overstated.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

There Is No "Right" to Health Care

Excellent read from Sheldon Richman on why health care is not, nor can it be, a "right".  A few of my  favorite excerpts from What Does It Mean to Have a 'Right' to Health Care?:
Politicians, of course, can declare a right to medical care, but those are mere words. What counts is what happens after the declaration. Since a system in which everyone could have, on demand, all the medical care they wanted at no cost would be unsustainable, the so-called right to medical care necessarily translates into the power of politicians and bureaucrats to set the terms under which medical services and products may be provided and received. This is crucial: a government-declared "right" (that does not reflect natural rights) is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.
and:
Two ways exist for determining how resources and labor are to be used; an apparent third way is simply a mixture of the other two. The first is for the government—fallible, corruptible politicians and bureaucrats operating a monopoly—to decide for everyone. The other way is the decentralized, competitive marketplace. The so-called third way is for politicians and bureaucrats to interfere with, but not completely incapacitate, the marketplace. Only one is sure to produce the most of what people want for less, that is, to raise living standards as high as people wish.
and:
This brings us to an important question in the health care context: what is insurance? Outside the medical sector most people understand that insurance is a way to grapple with uncertainty. Specifically, insurance allows the pooling of resources of many people in order to deal with the small risk of a large financial misfortune for any particular individual in the group. Think of life, homeowner, or auto insurance. For some reason health insurance is thought of differently. Most people expect health insurance to cover every medical expenditure no matter how small, predictable services (like annual physical exams), and illnesses contracted before the coverage began ("preexisting illnesses"). Much of the reason for this goes back to World War II, when the government imposed wage and price controls but let employers offer medical insurance as noncash compensation not subject to income taxation. One of the problems with American health care is that most people get their insurance through their employers, anesthetizing consumers to the true costs of coverage and services. Medical transactions are largely between large institutions (including the government), not cost-conscious buyers and customer-oriented practitioners.
Much of what we call health insurance is not really insurance. No one expects their auto policy to cover windshield-wiper blades, tires, and oil changes (such a policy wouldn't be worth the price), and no one expects to be able to buy a homeowners policy to cover a house fire already in progress or a life-insurance policy for someone who is already dead. Logically, you cannot insure against a certainty. Someone who has a serious illness before obtaining health coverage represents medical expenses sure to be incurred. Call the coverage what you will, but it is not insurance. The government can force others—even insurance companies—to pay for those things, but that doesn't make it insurance. It's welfare, with the companies playing the role of tax collectors. In the process, the insurance market is distorted and the true costs of the implicit transfer of resources are hidden. (I explore this point here.)

So True ...

Jobs are a means, not an end!  Kevin D. Williamson fills us in on this fact, and a few others, in his latest, Jobs & Prosperity - Capitalism Should Focus on the Latter.  Here's my favorite excerpt from the piece:
The people who have an explicit legal obligation to work not on our behalf but on behalf of their shareholders do a pretty good job of giving us what we want; the people who vow to work on our behalf do not. That is a paradox only if you do not think about it too much, and not thinking about it too much is the business that politicians are in.
This guy is good, so very good!

America's Military Presence: 177 Countries

This is "defense"?  From America First? 200,000 Troops Deployed To 177 Nations comes this chart:


Bryan Caplan on Immigration as a Basic Human Right

I happen to agree 100% with Bryan Caplan on this one.  Here's his Opening Statement from a recent debate:
Here's my opening statement from Thursday's debate. Enjoy.

There are many complaints about governments, but the harshest is, "This government grossly violates human rights." The background assumption is that human beings have rights that everyone - including governments - is morally obliged to respect. When looking at the grossest violators - Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China - almost no one denies the validity of the idea of human rights. But then you have to wonder: Do the governments we know, accept, and even love have clean hands? Or do they violate human rights, too?

To answer, we normally apply a simple test: If an individual treated other people the same way the government does, would he clearly be a horrible criminal? If an individual deliberately kills innocent people, he's a murderer; if an individual imprisons innocent people, he's a kidnapper. A government that does the same violates basic human rights - and it can't justify its actions by calling innocent people "criminals." If someone is peacefully living his life, he's innocent - whatever the government says.

What does this have to do with immigration? Lots. Since we're in San Diego, we've seen illegal immigrants. What are the vast majority of them doing? Working for willing employers. Renting apartments from willing landlords. Buying stuff from willing merchants. Sending money home to their families. Maybe even sitting next to you in class. They sure look innocent - even admirable. But the U.S. government can and does forcibly arrest and exile them to the Third World. Why can't they all just come legally? Because exile is the default; they're all exiled unless the U.S. government makes a rare exception. This is far less bad than killing or imprisoning them, but it sure looks like a severe human rights violation. If the U.S. government forbade you to live and work here, wouldn't that be a severe violation of your human rights?

You could reasonably object that human rights are not absolute. While there's a strong moral presumption against killing, imprisoning, or exiling innocent people, it's okay to do so if the overall consequences of respecting human rights are clearly awful. The main problem with this objection is that when social scientists measure the overall consequences of immigration, they're not clearly awful. In fact, the overall consequences look totally awesome. Most notably, standard economic estimates say that letting all the world's talent flow to wherever it's most productive would roughly DOUBLE global prosperity. That's an extra $75 TRILLION of extra wealth per year. How is this possible? Because even the world's lowest-skill workers produce far more in the First World than they do at home. Even if all other fears about immigration were bulletproof - which they aren't - they're dwarfed by this gargantuan economic gain. This isn't trickle-down economics; it's Niagara Falls economics.

To effectively defend immigration restrictions, then, saying "Human rights are not absolute" is insufficient. You need to flatly deny that immigration is a human right - to say that while the illegal immigrants you meet on the street may look innocent, they're actually guilty as hell. The most popular argument analogizes illegal immigrants to trespassers. No one has any right to be here without government permission; it's our country, so we set the rules.

The obvious problem with this position is that it justifies a vast range of blatant human rights abuses. If it's our country and we set the rules, why can't we exile citizens, too? Why can't we imprison people for saying the wrong thing, practicing the wrong religion, or having kids without government permission? Saying, "That won't happen," dodges the question: If the U.S. government did this to you, would it be violating your human rights or not?

Prof. Wellman offers a more sophisticated version of this story. He defends immigration restrictions for "legitimate states" only, on the grounds that immigration restrictions are vital for "freedom of association." Unfortunately, we have two conflicting freedoms of association. I want to be free to associate with foreigners; lots of foreigners want to associate with me. Immigration restrictions deny us this freedom in the name of all the Americans who don't want my associates breathing American air.

Who should prevail? In his work, Wellman concedes a crucial premise, freely admitting that the popular notion that we all consent to government is a "fiction," and that "the coercion states invariably employ is nonconsensual and, as such, is extremely difficult to justify." We don't really face a choice between two freedoms of association, but between freedom for real associations we choose to join and freedom for fictional "associations" we're forced to join. Unless the overall consequences are clearly awful, the fictional ones should lose. Freedom of association is only for free associations.

My critics often tease me, "Should everyone on Earth be free to immigrate into Bryan's house?" Their point: Treating immigration as a human right is utopian nonsense. My reply: There are three competing moral positions on immigration.

Foreigners should be free to live in my house even if I don't consent - a view held by almost no one.
Foreigners should be free to live in my house if I consent - my view.
Foreigners shouldn't be free to live in my house even if I do consent - the standard view I'm criticizing. Far from being utopian, saying "Immigration is a human right" is just the moderate, common-sense position that when natives and foreigners voluntarily interact, strangers are morally obliged to leave them alone unless the overall consequences are clearly awful. Even if the stranger happens to be the government - and the government happens to be popular.

Think About It ...

Interesting point that I've made to many people, with little or no interest expressed by my interlocutors.  Maybe Randall Holcombe will have better success in Who Are the Demanders of Local Government Services?: [emphasis mine]
Local governments produce lots of services that people value: schools, police protection, water and sewer services, and more. Who are the producers of these services accountable to, and who determines the characteristics of the services local governments provide?

Ideally, the people who live in the jurisdictions of those local governments would be the people who would determine the characteristics of the services they provide, but more than one-third of local government expenditures are financed by intergovernmental transfers, and those higher-level (federal and state) governments send that money with strings attached. To get the money, local governments have to spend the money the way the higher level governments want.

In large part, the demanders of local government services are higher level governments. They tell local governments what they want with the money they spend.

The result is that we get policies like No Child Left Behind, which comes with federal mandates and guidelines that direct local government education spending. Teachers “teach to the test” because federal funding demands it. We get militarized local police forces because the federal government provides grants and equipment to arm local police department with military vehicles and military weapons.

One would hope that local governments would be responsive to the demands of the people in their jurisdictions, but because so much of their funding comes from higher-level governments, and because those governments have so much more direct control, the real demanders of local government services are the federal and state governments, not the citizens who reside in those local governments.

Local governments force their own constituents to pay taxes. Locals don’t have any say in whether they want to “buy” what their local governments are selling, short of moving out of the jurisdiction. Local governments don’t need to produce what local taxpayers want to get their money.

Because local governments want money from the federal and state governments, they produce what the bureaucrats in those other governments want and are willing to pay for. The demanders of local government output are bureaucrats in the federal and state governments, and local government output is designed to satisfy the demands of those bureaucrats.

The institutional structure of local government finance ensures that those governments must take account of the demands of the bureaucrats in the higher-level governments who fund them, but can safely ignore the demands of the local constituency.

A Good Idea

I am certain that my first arrest will occur at an airport.  Between the TSA and the CBP, there's not much to like about flying in and out of the USA.  The Rubicon for me was the recent situation where passengers disembarking from a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York were requested to show their "documents".  I would have presented my boarding pass, but nothing else.  I would then have asked if I was being detained and was I free to go.  While I understand the purported reason for the search, there is a way to accomplish it without violating our rights and Matthew Feeney points just how to do this in Don’t Check the Bill of Rights: [emphasis mine]
If you’re a seasoned traveler, chances are you know your “Passenger Bill of Rights,” which protects you from the horrors of extended tarmac delays and hidden fees. Unfortunately, many passengers are not aware that the Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides even more important protections, extending to the questioning many may receive at the airport gate.

A case in point: In late February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers requested that passengers leaving a plane that had just arrived at New York’s JFK airport from San Francisco present their “documents.” These officers were reportedly searching for an immigrant with a deportation order. The immigrant was not on the flight.

With the Trump administration intent on ramping up interior immigration enforcement, citizens as well as undocumented migrants alike should expect to face new hassles at airports.

Some passengers on the San Francisco to JFK flight posted photos of the incident. Fortunately, the federal government has not passed a “Papers Please” law, which would allow officers to stop and demand identification from citizens absent criminal suspicion. You’d be forgiven for thinking that wasn’t the case looking at these photos, which underline how important it is that passengers know that these kinds of stops are voluntary.

That doesn’t mean that the stops feel voluntary. An armed officer at the door of the airplane you’re trying to leave can be an intimidating sight, and there is an understandable instinct not to cause a fuss when the officer asks, “Can I see your documents?” Would you feel comfortable saying “No” in this situation?

As University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps explained, “I can find no legal authority for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or CBP to require passengers to show identification on an entirely domestic fight.” It would help if citizens were made aware of this.

Accordingly, law enforcement officers at airports should be required by appropriate legislation to inform domestic travelers who have cleared security that, unless they’re being detained based on suspicion of wrongdoing, they are free to go on their way.

A template of such a notification could look something like the following: “I am officer [name] with [law enforcement agency]. I’d would like to search your belongings /check your identification, but you are not being detained and are free to leave. You are also free to refuse searches and requests to identify yourself.”


Data suggest that most Americans would be in favor something like this notification, with a Cato Institute/YouGov survey finding that 73 percent of Americans would support a law requiring police to tell citizens if they may refuse a stop or a search.

But, absent the implementation of such a law, we could soon be living in a world where American travelers think that it is normal to hand over their documents to CBP officers at the doors of airplanes. After all, many of these travelers will mistakenly believe that such stops aren’t voluntary.

Such a world would provide fertile ground to those who want to implement a national ID scheme, which would threaten our privacy and run contrary to the liberal values embodied in our Constitution. Once enough law-abiding citizens become used to being asked for documents, a national ID system will begin to look more plausible. The privacy risks associated with such a trend are too high a price to pay for increased immigration law enforcement.

It’s perhaps a little too much to expect the average American or tourist to know what their options are when asked for their papers. But it’s not too much to ask that CBP officers inform travelers that they are free to go on their way.

For too long, federal law enforcement has managed to expand the ever-growing security theater at airports, all while relying on “voluntary” behavior. Passengers are not required to go through the body scanner machines at airport security, but you may not have noticed the signs telling travelers that they are free to opt out of the scan. In the post 9/11 world, million of passengers now consider it normal to step into a body scanner in order to get onto a domestic flight. This isn’t because of a law requiring that passengers go through the scanners. Rather, it’s because enough people go through them without question.

We don’t need a “Papers Please” law for America to turn into the kind of country where police can request and receive documents from citizens at will; all that’s required is for enough citizens to comply with such requests.

A Few Data Points on Japan

When Japan Will Become Extinct by Donald Sensing:
Did you know that whole countries can become extinct? In Japan's case it will take place in August 3776. It may seem like a long time from now, but demographically, it's not.

The reason for the upcoming national extinction is simple: they are not having babies. 

But not just there. I have posted a few times that apparently Europe has just given up on the future and that IMO, one of the main reasons NATO is an albatross around America's neck is that Europeans' birth rate is so low that they cannot even maintain a level population. As I have said before, if NATO’s countries will not have enough children to preserve protect themselves, why should American women have children to protect them?

In Japan indicators of the aggravating factors are:

  1. Adult diapers outsell baby diapers. The over-65 demographic is the fastest-growing one.
  2. Last year, for the first time since century-before-last, births were fewer than one million. 
  3. Young people have started "granny dumping." "It describes the unfortunate practice of younger citizens bringing their senile elders to hospitals or charities and essentially abandoning them — generally because they can't afford care anymore." As of now, the number is in the low hundreds. As of now.
  4. Prisons are turning into nursing homes. An aging general population means an aging prison population. One-fifth of all crimes committed in Japan are committed by the elderly. Many turn to crime to get elder care in prison that they cannot get elsewhere.
  5. The extinction clock: at present birth rate, the last Japanese person will die in 3776.
  6. Friends are getting married out of desperation. The relatively few young people in Japan spend so much time and resources working (Japan is a a very expensive place to live) that they don't court one another. So many marriages occur between friends or mere acquaintances for reasons, mainly financial, other than making families.  
  7. Speaking of work, one-fifth percent of adults surveyed by the government said they worked at least 80 per week overtime, meaning that total hours worked per week greatly exceeds 100. This results in so many suicides that there is a special name for it, karoshi.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Stay Classy America!

American Spring Breakers chant 'build the wall' on Cancun cruise in front of horrified Mexican honeymooners. What a disgrace. Makes me ashamed to be an American.  Sure, I know, they're "just kids" and they're likely drunk and stupid.  Yeah, no.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair

Friday, March 17, 2017

Glad I Moved to Jersey After All

Well, not 100% true.  I'm a Philly kid through and through, however, I'm not stupid, which I can't say for the politicians that purportedly run the City of Brotherly Love.  With the new year came the implementation of the soda tax and let's not forget, a new additional tax on gasoline (Update: this just in: Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls to increase on Sunday).  Now, along with the new year and these new taxes, the residents of Philly are surprised, alarmed and even angry at the costs they now have to pay for soda and gas.  Go figure.  Politicians had actually claimed the tax would not "have to be passed onto the consumer", but of course, someone has to pay.  Also, remember this: the soda tax is a regressive tax, that hits those that can least afford it, the hardest.  So, as a former Philadelphian, let me tell you what I did, routinely, to avoid all the bullshit taxation in Philadelphia: I went across the Ben Franklin Bridge to New Jersey to buy my alcohol (wine and liquor can only be purchased at state-run stores in PA ... well, there has been some liberalization lately with wine); I would fill up my car in Jersey while I was there, and for the most part, I would shop as much as I could outside the city of Philly in order to avoid the extra 2% sales tax.  Though I don't smoke, I know of many people that buy their smokes outside the city to avoid the extra taxation on cigarettes levied by the city.  So, if I was still there, I'd be sure to buy any sugar drinks outside the city as well.  Philadelphia is not a big city.  In addition to the short ride to NJ to the east, the northern and western suburbs such as Delaware County, Bucks County and Montgomery County is just a short ride away as well.  Granted, the gas tax could not be avoided by staying in PA, but all others can be avoided.  Let's not forget that Delaware is but a short ride south on I-95 and it has no sales tax.  When I plan to purchase anything with a significant cost, I'll likely head south. It's simple really: people respond to incentives, so it's not surprise that people will avoid taxation if at all possible.   One would think that lowering taxes would attract people to come to the city and keep those that live there buying within the city.  Anyway, if you're interested, read the latest on the soda tax implementation from Reason.com - Outrage in Philadelphia as New Soda Tax Doubles Drink Prices.  For a more local and humorous view, here's The Burning Platform's Jim Quinn, who lives in the area, read Ignorant Masses Shocked By Philly Beverage Tax Impact.  Just for the record, Jim Quinn is a regular at The Shamrock in Wildwood (see my previous post on the drinking age) ...

Update on 3/17/2017: Philadelphia Soda Tax Forces Local University To Hike Student Costs By $400,000.  Well, I'm a bit skeptical on this one too, but hey, I never let fake news get in the way of my confirmation bias!

Update 2/22/2017:  Ok, so I'm somewhat skeptical about the job loss numbers, however, I remain convinced that there will be negative repercussions as a result of Philly's Soda tax.  Here's Philadelphia Soda Tax Leads To 30-50% Plunge In Sales, Mass Layoffs and
With Sales Depressed by Soda Tax, Philly Grocers Look to Cut Jobs as Mayor Blames 'Greedy' Soda Industry

Update 1/19/2017:  Nice job by the Philadelphia Inquirer here as it provides a graphic of the impact of the sugar tax.

Abigail Blanco links to the Philadelphia Inquirer piece as well in her excellent post Escaping Philly's Soda Tax.  She provides the basic Econ 101 rules as to why this regressive tax will not work as designed.


Update 1/13/2017:  The economic illiteracy of Philadelphia politicians is once again evident as the Philly Mayor Blames ‘Price Gouging’ for Outrage Generated by City’s New Soda Tax.  Of course, I firmly believe that politicians are very aware of economics, but count on the continued ignorance of their constituents.  It borders on the absurd to believe that anyone would think that increased costs of a product would not be passed on to the customer and yet that's exactly what the mayor wants Philadelphians to believe, i.e., the increased costs should not have been passed on and rather, they should have been "absorbed" by the manufacturer and/or the distributor.  I should refer to him from this point on as Mayor Maduro.

Here is a proud Philadelphian who is tracking just how much tax he is avoiding by shopping outside the city.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Opting Out of Social Security


Opting Out of Social Security from Robert P. Murphy, is an excellent piece on the current flustercluck status that is the Social Security system.  Simply put: the system's a mess and has been for years and it's only getting worse.  As my wife always says: "Things are fine until they're not" and when the "not" comes for Social Security, and it will, it will not be pretty nor will it end well. 

Must Have Guide To Carry When You're Traveling

EFF Border Search Pocket Guide is a must have when you travel.  Easy to print, fold and carry.  For more on your rights when you travel, read Digital Privacy at the U.S Border: A New How-To Guide from EFF

I have heard and read about more and more people, Americans, who are leaving their PCs, tablets, even their phones home when they travel abroad.  Please, don't fall into that "I have nothing to hide" trap.


No, It's Not

Liberty Is Not for Wimps, by Walter Williams:  [emphasis is the author's]
Most Americans, whether liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican, do not show much understanding or respect for the principles of personal liberty. We criticize our political leaders, but we must recognize that their behavior simply reflects the values of people who elected them to office. That means we are all to blame for greater governmental control over our lives and a decline in personal liberty. Let me outline some fundamental principles of liberty.

My initial premise is that each of us owns himself. I am my private property, and you are yours. If we accept the notion of self-ownership, then certain acts can be deemed moral or immoral. Murder, rape and theft are immoral because those acts violate private property. Most Americans accept that murder and rape are immoral, but we are ambivalent about theft. Theft can be defined as taking the rightful property of one American and giving it to another, to whom it does not belong. It is also theft to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another.

At least two-thirds of federal spending can be described as Congress' taking the rightful property of one American and giving it to another American, to whom it does not belong. So-called mandatory spending totaled $2.45 trillion in 2015. Thus, two-thirds of the federal budget goes toward Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food assistance, unemployment and other programs and benefits that fall into the category of taking from some and giving to others. To condemn legalized theft is not an argument against taxes to finance the constitutionally mandated functions of the federal government; we are all obligated to pay our share of those.

Many say that government spending guarantees one right or another. That's nonsense. True rights exist simultaneously among people. That means the exercise of a right by one person does not impose an obligation on another. In other words, my rights to speech and travel impose no obligations on another except those of noninterference. For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, food assistance or any other good or service whether a person can afford it or not does diminish someone else's rights — namely, their right to their earnings. Congress has no resources of its very own. If Congress gives one person something that he did not earn, it necessarily requires that Congress deprive somebody else of something that he did earn.

Another area in which there is contempt for liberty, most notably on many college campuses, is free speech. The true test of one's commitment to free speech does not come when he permits others to say things with which he agrees. Instead, the true test comes when one permits others to say things with which he disagrees. Colleges lead the nation in attacks on free speech. Some surveys report that over 50 percent of college students want restrictions on speech they find offensive. Many colleges have complied with their wishes through campus speech codes.

A very difficult liberty pill for many Americans to swallow is freedom of association. As with free speech, the true test for one's commitment to freedom of association does not come when one permits people to voluntarily associate in ways that he deems acceptable. The true test is when he permits people to associate in ways he deems offensive. If a golf club, fraternity or restaurant were not to admit me because I'm a black person, I would find it offensive, but it's every organization's right to associate freely. On the other hand, a public library, public utility or public university does not have a right to refuse me service, because I am a taxpayer.

The bottom line is that it takes a bold person to be for personal liberty, because you have to be able to cope with people saying things and engaging in voluntary acts that you deem offensive. Liberty is not for wimps.

Friday, March 10, 2017

So He Was

Truman Was Right About the CIA by Jeff Deist: [emphasis mine]
Say what you will about President Harry Truman, but at least he didn't leave the White House a suspiciously rich man. He also actually went home, to Independence Missouri, and moved into a modest house he didn't own. It was the same house belonging to his wife's family where he had lived with Bess (and his mother-in-law!) decades earlier.

Flat broke, and unwilling to accept corporate board positions or commercial endorsements, Truman sought a much-needed loan from a local Missouri bank. For several years his sole income was a $113 monthly Army pension, and only the sale of a parcel of land he inherited with his siblings prevented him from nearly "being on relief," as Truman allegedly stated. In the 1950s, perhaps almost entirely to alleviate Truman's embarrassing financial situation, Congress authorized a $25,000 yearly pension for ex-presidents Truman and the much-wealthier Herbert Hoover.

Contrast this with the luxe post-presidential life of the Reagans in Bel Air, or the still-unfolding saga of the Obama's jet-setting life between Kalorama, Palm Springs, and Oahu!

But even if Truman's homespun honesty and common man persona sometime wore thin, he deserves enormous credit for the startling admission that he regretted creating the CIA. Speaking to a biographer in the 1960s, less than 20 years after signing the National Security Act of 1947, Truman expressed a sense of foreboding about what the agency had become, and would become:
Merle Miller: Mr. President, I know that you were responsible as President for setting up the CIA. How do you feel about it now?
Truman: I think it was a mistake. And if I'd know what was going to happen, I never would have done it.
This is decidedly not the kind of thing ex-presidents usually say. We won't expect George W. Bush to announce his regrets over invading Iraq anytime soon. But Truman's instincts were right, even if he couldn't have imagined what the CIA and the entire Deep State nexus would become. In Truman's era, spying and subterfuge were physical endeavors, involving skilled agents and analog technology. Today the covert arts don't require James Bond, but instead a trained technician who can pull information from a server farm.

The digital revolution gives modern intelligence agencies vastly more power than they had during the Cold War spy days: they simply access existing metadata, from whatever source, rather than collect it in real time. And intelligence gathering is not just a supplementary form of warfare waged against hostile foreign governments, but also a domestic political tool that allows Deep State actors to strike at civilian and political targets. As Mr. Trump has discovered, the "strike" can consist of a coordinated media attacks, leaks from trusted officials, and even bizarre triangulations aimed at pinning his election on Vladimir Putin.

One justification Truman provides for his action is the old bureaucratic unicorn known as "consolidation," which is often promised by politicians but never delivered. When then-congressman Ron Paul and his staff furiously argued against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, GOP congressional leaders assured us that an entirely new department would actually consolidate several different agencies and functions. "It will save money!", they told us, to bring all of these disparate federal employees under one efficient umbrella. Fast forward to 2017, and DHS is just another failed department with a thousand-page, $42 billion annual budget.

But Truman apparently bought into the consolidation argument:
Truman: the President needed at that time a central organization that would bring all the various intelligence reports we were getting in those days, and there must have been a dozen of them, maybe more, bring them all into one organization so that the President would get one report on what was going on in various parts of the world. Now that made sense, and that's why I went ahead and set up what they called the Central Intelligence Agency.
Unfortunately it was only in hindsight that Truman came to see the "Iron Law of Oligarchy" at work, which posits that all organizations-- particularly government bureaucracies-- eventually fall under the control of an elite few. That elite, he came to understand, did not include the president or his cabinet:
Truman: But it got out of hand. The fella ... the one that was in the White House after me never paid any attention to it, and it got out of hand. Why, they've got an organization over there in Virginia now that is practically the equal of the Pentagon in many ways. And I think I've told you, one Pentagon is one too many.

Now, as nearly as I can make out, those fellows in the CIA don't just report on wars and the like, they go out and make their own, and there's nobody to keep track of what they're up to. They spend billions of dollars on stirring up trouble so they'll have something to report on. They've become ... it's become a government all of its own and all secret. They don't have to account to anybody.

That's a very dangerous thing in a democratic society, and it's got to be put a stop to. The people have got a right to know what those birds are up to. And if I was back in the White House, people would know. You see, the way a free government works, there's got to be a housecleaning every now and again, and I don't care what branch of the government is involved. Somebody has to keep an eye on things.

And when you can't do any housecleaning because everything that goes on is a damn secret, why, then we're on our way to something the Founding Fathers didn't have in mind. Secrecy and a free, democratic government don't mix. And if what happened at the Bay of Pigs doesn't prove that, I don't know what does. You have got to keep an eye on the military at all times, and it doesn't matter whether it's the birds in the Pentagon or the birds in the CIA.
This is a remarkable statement by Truman, even if delivered during a relatively unguarded moment with a trusted biographer. It shows a humility and willingness to admit grave error that is lacking in public life today. It also stands on its own as a inadvertent libertarian argument against state power itself.

Did Truman stand by his statements about the CIA? Yes and no. Speaking to Esquire in 1971, he continued to praise the agency as a needed consolidation:

When I took over the Presidency he received information from just about everywhere, from the Secretary of State and the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Agriculture. Just everybody. And sometimes they didn't agree as to what was happening in various parts of the world. So I got couple of admirals together, and they formed the Central Intelligence Agency for the benefit and convenience of the President of the United States . . . So instead of the President having to look through a bunch of papers two feet high, the information was coordinated so that the President could arrive at the facts. It's still going, and it's going very well.

Hypocritical backpedaling on Truman's part? Perhaps. But his biographer Merle Miller calls the Esquire quote "pretty faint praise," and more importantly Truman never ordered the removal of his brief chapter on the CIA from the Plain Speaking biography. His mea culpa still stands, in print. So while he could not have fully imagined what the CIA would become, he knew in his gut he had made a terrible mistake-- a mistake we are only beginning to understand today thanks to WikiLeaks.

And So It Continues ...

The Who said it best: "Meet the new boss - same as the old boss."  Once again, a politician places this nation's armed forces in harm's way for what? Nothing.  Just a continuation of the Bush-Obama version of what passes for foreign policy.  Trump May Deploy 1,000 Troops To Kuwait To Fight ISIS.  Granted, I understand Trump "may" deploy, but this will happen.  Straight out of the government playbook: cause a distraction so the real problems can be ignored.  The American people, regardless of party affiliation, ideology, etc. are but sheeple, and clueless sheeple at that.

Quote Of the Day - Ok, Well That's Settled Then ...

"There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America ... There is no place in America outside of judicial reach." - FBI Director James Comey, source: Politico

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quote of the Day - On Minimum Wage

"[L]egislators cannot increase the economic well-being of people by enacting laws. If they could, then there would be no more poverty in the world. All that governments would have to do is enact laws mandating employers to pay employees $1,000 an hour and - voila! - no one would be poor and everyone would be rich. One big problem, however, is that life just doesn’t work that way. Another big problem is that when people turn to Caesar to enact laws to abolish or reduce poverty, they only make the poverty and the suffering worse than it was before the law was enacted." - Jacob Hornberger, Growing Opposition to Minimum Wage Hikes

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"[M]odern politicians and their Keynesian enablers despise the gold or silver standard. This is because linking a currency to a precious metal limits the ability of central banks to finance the growth of the welfare-warfare state via the inflation tax. This forces politicians to finance big government much more with direct means of taxation." - Ron Paul, Arizona Challenges the Fed’s Money Monopoly

Government, In a Nutshell

Residents and visitors alike know that getting around the Bay Area is not exactly a walk in the park. A $2.4 billion Transbay Transit Center is slated to open in December, but as San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross note, this highly touted “Grand Central Station of the West,” will wind up as “little more than the world’s most expensive bus station.” Worse, “it’s going to cost an estimated $20 million a year to run the place, and no one knows where all the money will come from.”

According to San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs the local Transportation Authority, the “operating subsidy” could be $20 million a year but “without a source of revenue.” So as the columnists explain, “taxpayers and bridge commuters will probably be on the hook to pick up millions of dollars in costs, although the exact amount still isn’t known.”

As we noted, a $3.5 billion bond approval has Bay Area Rapid Transit bosses panting for another $1.5 billion in toll hikes that would boost bridge fares as high as $9. On the other hand, BART has no trouble paying janitor Liang Zhao Zhang $271,000 in one year. That includes $162,000 in overtime, even though this sweeping Stakhanov seems to spend much of his overtime inside a closet.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Aaron Peskin has been appointed to the California Coastal Commission, an unelected body of regulatory zealots who override scores of duly elected governments on coastal land-use issues. Peskin was appointed by state Senate boss Kevin de Leon, whose chief of staff Dan Reeves forbade Senator Janet Nguyen, a refugee from Vietnam, from saying anything critical of the late Tom Hayden, a former state senator and Uncle Tom of Vietnam’s Stalinist regime. When Senator Nguyen, a southern California Republican, dared to speak out, Senate Democrats turned off her microphone and tossed the Asian woman from the Senate floor.

In his first go-round as California governor, Jerry Brown opposed the influx of Vietnamese refugees and even tried to block refugee flights into Travis Air Force Base. With Brown governor again, little wonder why the Senate would give Janet Nguyen a rough ride. On the other hand, the state’s ruling class always does the same for California’s embattled taxpayers.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Interview with Johan Norberg

Well worth the 10 or so minutes is this Nick Gillespie interview of Johan Norberg, whose videos "Dead Wrong" are often found on this blog of mine:


Worthy Reads from Nassim Taleb

Only The Rich Are Poisoned: The Preference of Others

Facta non Verba: How to Own Your Enemies


The Value of an American Passport

Not even in the top 20!  And The World's Most Valuable Passport Is...  Sweden comes in at #1.  In case you elect not to open the link, the US comes in at #35, tied actually, with, get this, Slovenia.

What, You're Surprised to Learn That ...

... federal workers donated so generously to Clinton's presidential campaign?  Really?  Well, it will be interesting to see the same chart in 2021.  




Source: The Swamp Is Deep

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Random Thoughts

The presidency of Donald Trump should be called the Era of Revelation.  Trump's election has done, if nothing else, revealed the despicable, disgusting, charnel house nature of American government since Teddy Roosevelt.  The facade has crumbled, exposing a rat-infested, crumbling edifice, that is rotten to its core.  It reminds me of how Dorothy discovered that the Land of Oz was not run by a wizard, but rather, by a mean old man behind a curtain, who pulled levers and switches, a man who loved power over everything else.

Random Thoughts

Just a thought: governments the world over, particularly the few remaining superpowers (US, Russia, China) must continue to automate warfare, making it less dependent on people.  Why?  First off, nation's have always wanted more efficient ways of killing others, however, this is not the primary, most critical reason.  Here it is: making warfare less dependent on people, in effect, makes the military and the civilians that purportedly give it its mission, less dependent on their approval for waging war in the first place, i.e., it makes the "will of the people" - meaningless.  Think about it: what's the first thing the president says when contemplating the next military engagement: "no boots on the ground". The intention of this statement is to simply make killing more appealing to the populace: none of ours will be killed, but, hell will be unleashed on our enemies - who all coincdently enough, are too small to fight back on any type of truly threatening scale.  Automating warfare is also a necessity, since the nation of ours is churning out 'snowflakes' who of all things the cannot nor will not do, is to enlist.  The few people that will be needed by the military can always be culled from the military class and their families, those people that believe in their country, right or wrong, and who do not question the establishment.  To close, it will come down to the simple question posed in George Orwell's 1984: who are we at war with, Eastasia or Eurasia?

Random Thoughts - Russia Edition

Russia.  So, let me get this straight: Russia's our enemy, or at least a nation that doesn't deserve respect?  Also, somehow, I'm expected to share the opinion of many, in power and those that support those in power, that the Russians are to be loathed and the new Cold War should begin, followed quickly thereafter by a "hot war".   So, it's now somehow wrong for our nation's "leaders" to practice diplomacy, meaning, to engage with all nations, to talk, trade, seek accommodation, and so on.  The leaders of the state, whose very children will not be those to die, keep up this relentless anti-Russia rhetoric so that a war can be substituted for, get this, peace, instead.

So, from what I can see, and recall, there are three reasons for this hatred of Russia. First, they are accused of "interfering" in our country's election.  Second, they support Bashar Assad, the president of Syria.  Third, Russia is run by Vladimir Putin, who is somehow to be more loathed than say just about every other purported leader of any number of other countries.  There may also be some memories of the war in Georgia, not to mention the Ukraine, which if memory serves me right, U.S. officials "interfered" in the latter's election.

Let's address these three items for which so many in power as well as their minions cling so vehemently.  First, the U.S. has interfered in elections of many sovereign nations.  For more, please read David Talbot's The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government.  Secondly, Russia has been an ally of Syria for decades.  If America can have allies such as Japan, South Korea, countless European countries, etc. and protect them as if they were America's vassals, then Russia has the same right, regardless of how the U.S. may "feel" about it, or worse, how many perceive America to be somehow exceptional over other nations.  Syria is also very  near to Russia, and I believe there are natural gas pipelines that run to Russia.  Remember your history: America was ready to initiate WWIII because of a few missiles in Cuba.  Remember the Monroe Doctrine?  Russia is certainly welcome to its own version of such a doctrine.  Lastly, how do the Syrian people think about the Russians?  Third: Putin.  He's a politician, and as such, all politicians deserve much disdain.  He's certainly not worth expending a drop of American blood.  Of course, I'd feel differently if his country was storming the shores of Jersey, but until that day, dismiss him too.  His time will pass - as will Assad's.

In conclusion, I believe that Russia is a convenient distraction for this country's government.  Also, this nation must have enemies in order to ensure the Deep State has a reason to exist.  Enemies are also the necessary prerequisite for the military-industrial-congressional-security complex.  Imagine a world where the trillions spent on "defense" could be spent on, say our Veteran's health care instead of creating more physically and mentally wounded soldiers.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Van Jones on Safe Spaces

Love it when he says "I want you to be offended every single day on this campus ...."

Politics Is All About One Thing: Power

Long have I said that the pursuit of power, its acquisition and above all, its maintenance is the root of all evil.  I distrust those who seek power, especially politicians and their cronies in business.  Few in number are those that once they acquire power, use it judiciously and then surrender it willingly.  Here's an excellent post from Bryan Caplan that is a worthy read on the subject indeed - Power Hunger: [emphasis mine]
"Greed is good."  After a few years in economics, the goodness of greed seems like common sense.  But it's not.  In a randomly selected social environment, greed is brutal.  If you're carrying a bag of gold and meet a well-armed stranger in a remote jungle, you wouldn't say, "As long as he's greedy, I have nothing to worry about."  The knowledge that Nigerian spammers are greedy doesn't incline you to send them your money.  If you were looking for a caretaker for your elderly mother, discovering that a job candidate is "extremely greedy" would be a strong mark against him.  As Marge Gunderson sadly muses at the end of Fargo, "So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don't you know that?"

What economics teaches is not that greed is good, but that good incentives transform this questionable motive into awesome results.  Greed plus property rights plus competition plus rationality plus reputation is good.  Greed alone is film noir.

In Public Choice, also known as "economics of politics," we usually assume that politicians are motivated not by greed, but by power-hunger.  Of course, we rarely utter the word "power-hunger."  Instead, we call it "vote maximization," just as we call greed "profit maximization."  But when Public Choice pictures politicians, it pictures humans filled with lust for power.

Is this a reasonable picture of politicians' psyches?  Absolutely.  That politicians crave power is as undeniable as that businesspeople crave profits.  If you look at political history before the rise of democracy, we see virtually nothing other than dictators struggling to cement their power internally and expand their power externally.  When these dictators lost wars, they lost territory and subjects, because virtually every dictators wanted to rule over as much land and as many people as possible. 

Under democracy, politicians are less candid about their motives; they need us to like them, and power-hunger is not likeable.  But given its ubiquity throughout most of political history, can we really believe that the motive of power-hunger is no longer paramount?  One of my favorite political insiders privately calls politicians of both parties "psychopaths" - and he's on to something.  Rising high on the pyramid of power is hard unless love of power fuels your ascent.

In a randomly-selected social environment, power-hunger - like greed - is brutal.  Just look at the history of warfare in all its hideousness - the endless bloodbaths over slivers of territory.  Remember how leaders terrorized their rivals, their potential rivals, their imagined rivals.  It's sickening.  If Fargo were a war story, and Marge Gunderson hunted war criminals, she might have sadly mused, "So that was Sarajevo on the floor in there. And I guess those were your accomplices in the mass grave. And those three hundred thousand people in Bosnia. And for what? For a little bit of power. There's more to life than a little power, you know. Don't you know that?"

In dictatorships, the causal chain from power-hunger to bad results is obvious.  The fundamental question of Public Choice is: Does democracy motivate power-hungry politicians to do good despite their bad intentions?  My admirable nemesis, Donald Wittman, tirelessly argues Yes, but to no avail.  Democracy out-performs dictatorship, but that's damning with faint praise. 

Once you thank the stars you aren't ruled by Louis XIV or Lenin, a grim truth remains: democracy gives power-hungry politicians far worse incentives than the market gives greedy businesspeople.  Above all, voters - unlike consumers - have no incentive to be rational, spurring power-hungry politicians to preach and practice endless demagoguery.  It's gotten worse lately, but it's always been terrible.  Democracy hasn't turned politicians into decent human beings; it's only gilded their age-old power lust with altruistic hypocrisy.

So what can we do about our predicament?  There are no easy answers, but I know where to start.  Like alcoholics, we must admit we have a problem.  Throughout history and around the world, the wicked rule.  We should stop admiring them - especially the politicians on "our side" - and see them for the reprobates they are.

Answer: Nothing

Question: What Does America Really Gain from Excess Military Bases? by By Christopher A. Preble and Todd Harrison:
In a recent piece at the National Interest, MIT Professor Harvey Sapolsky accuses “quick-fix budgeteers” of pushing a new round of military base closures as a “way to create magic money” for the Pentagon or taxpayers.

Sapolsky also claims that the “local economy disappears” when a base closes, and that savings are offset by other federal spending as former bases “are stuffed with other government-funded activities.” Accurately capturing the true savings generated by five successive “Base Realignment and Closure” (BRAC) rounds between 1988 and 2005 must include this other spending, but Sapolsky is wrong to suggest that closing unneeded bases does not produce net savings.

Base closures cost money upfront to clean up bases and hand them over to local communities. But the data shows that savings begin to accrue almost immediately. In the first round of BRAC, the savings began in fiscal year (FY) 1990—the first year of implementation—at a meager $72 million and then rose steadily to $1.5 billion annually by FY 1995. The second round of BRAC was even more impressive, with savings beginning at $548 million in the first year of implementation, FY 1992, and rising to a peak of $3.4 billion in FY 1997. The third and fourth rounds of BRAC in the late 1990s followed a similar pattern.

Sapolsky is correct that the savings from base closures are more significant when activities are eliminated and forces are reduced. The first four rounds of base closures focused on reducing legacy Cold War infrastructure that was no longer needed. Closing these bases allowed the Department of Defense (DoD) to eliminate the activities (and associated costs) needed to support them. Once these base support functions are eliminated, the savings accrue in perpetuity. We are still reaping the savings today from bases that were closed in the 1990s. DoD estimates that together the first four rounds of BRAC produced recurring annual savings of about $7 billion as of FY 2001, and those savings will continue accruing indefinitely.

The fifth and most recent round of BRAC is the exception that proves the rule. It was the only BRAC to occur during a military buildup, and it was more focused on realignments than outright closures. Because activities are not eliminated when they are moved from one base to another, the savings are more limited. Even so, the recurring savings from the fifth BRAC—by far the most expensive and wide-reaching BRAC ever—rose to $5 billion annually by FY 2011.

Sapolsky also claims that, “in the eyes of the BRAC proponents no one gets hurt. It is all win-win.” That is absurd. No one disputes that a base closure disrupts local and regional economic patterns, just as a factory closure does. The relevant point is that maintaining excess overhead doesn’t serve the nation’s interest, just as keeping an underperforming manufacturing facility doesn’t serve a company’s interests. BRAC is disruptive to local economies as existing government jobs (and the contractors that support them) are moved or eliminated. But that disruption is in many cases temporary as new private-sector jobs are created from the economic opportunity a closure creates.

In a dynamic economy, we take it for granted that resources are regularly reallocated, even if we are sometimes sad or inconvenienced when our favorite businesses succumb to competitive pressure. Changing consumer preferences and needs affect the supply of particular products and services. In much the same way, technological and geopolitical change affects both the demand for military hardware, and ultimately its character. This has happened in the U.S. military over the past decade, and it is why another BRAC is needed now.

We can’t ignore the impact that a base closure has on local communities. Many former bases have drawn in a wide range of businesses and industries, ultimately creating a more diverse and dynamic economic environment. But no one who has visited Limestone, Maine, can reasonably argue that the closure of the Loring Air Force Base was economically beneficial to that tiny town on the Canadian border.

On the contrary, Limestone—and much of surrounding Aroostook County—is in the midst of a long, slow, economic and demographic decline that seems all but irreversible. That didn’t start with Loring’s closure. And keeping Loring open longer wouldn’t have halted it. But it would have sapped resources from the Air Force that could have been used for more productive purposes.

Sapolsky implies that Loring and Limestone are emblematic of base closures in rural areas, and that the cases of the Presidio in San Francisco, or Governors Island in New York, are the exceptions.

But this is misleading. Far more typical are two other bases in Maine: Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, and the former naval air station in Brunswick.

The Air Force departed Bangor in 1968, but the Maine Air National Guard still operates there, sharing runways with commercial flights to and from the Bangor International Airport. There are also business parks and a satellite campus of the University of Maine at Augusta on former Dow Air Force Base property. General Electric began operations within months of Dow’s closure, and it is still one of the city’s largest employers.

The people of Bangor were certainly dismayed by the Air Force’s relatively abrupt departure, but they managed to make the best of it. In 1989, as communities around the country were facing the prospect of a new round of base closures under the new BRAC process, the DoD designated Bangor’s conversion of Dow as a model that others should emulate.

Meanwhile, Brunswick Naval Air Station is now Brunswick Landing, a diverse business campus operated by the Midcoast Regional Reuse Authority (MRRA). The base was included in the fifth and final BRAC round, and the last P-3 Orion aircraft departed in 2009. But the MRRA has flown past its five-year goals in terms of employment and business activity. MRRA executive director Steve Levesque told the Portland Press Herald last year “that we have a real opportunity to have 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in the next 10 years.”

No two cases are alike, and every community facing a possible base closure must devise a plan adapted to their needs. But no one should dispute that the U.S. military is carrying excess overhead, and that true savings can be achieved if we can muster the political will to do what is right. Wasteful and inefficient defense spending on bases and facilities that are no longer needed does not make us more secure.

Worthy Reads on Afghanistan & Iraq

Two worthy reads from Doug Bandow that will fall on deaf ears within the state that purportedly represents us!

The Nation-Building Experiment That Failed: Time for U.S. to Leave Afghanistan

For the record, I cringe at the phrase "nation-building".  Seriously, on what notion of existence can using the military be considered "nation-building"?

Not Wanted: a Permanent U.S. Presence in Iraq

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Conservatives like to talk a good game about State’s rights and local control when it comes to issues like gun laws and Obamacare, but federalism and the Constitution go right out the window on the drug issue." - Ryan McMaken, Trump to States That Have Legalized Recreational Pot: Drop Dead


When are these shits going to dry up and blow away? Really.  With all the issues this country faces, this administration decides to go up against the states that have legalized pot.  Of course, this is just a bone to the MICS (military-industrial-congressional-security) complex, as more money will flow to local law enforcement, which is simply the stamp "Paid" to Trump's IOUs to the unions.  

Must Read: Leviathan Government - Explained

While I knew much of this, it just blew me away as I read it!  Please, read and digest John Dilulio's 10 questions and answers about America’s “Big Government”.  It's not an easy piece to repost, but it's well worth the read.  It's fundamentally a "Government 101" primer!  Here's an excerpt:
  1. What, then, is the one “must-know fact” about “Big Government” in America today?
It is that “Big Government” in America today is both debt-financed and proxy-administered.

The first half of that essential fact is well known, much discussed, and much debated.  For all but five post-1960 years, the federal government has run deficits, and the national debt is now bordering on $20 trillion.  But the latter half of that essential fact—rampant proxy administration—is little known, poorly understood, and, except in certain moments of crisis, ignored.
 

Must Read: Freedom Is Hard

Freedom is Hard, by Mike Munger:
I understand that old people (that’s me) always think the “younger generation” is confused and likely to lead us to disaster. But....c’mon. Isn’t it true this time? Hasn’t our education system produced a giant cohort of fragile snowflakes and petty tyrants?

It looks like it. At UNC Chapel Hill this week a “flier” was discovered, hundreds of copies of which had been distributed around the campus. It encouraged students to “bash the fash!”, meaning physically assault fascists. The definition of “fascist,” conveniently, appears to be anyone who disagrees with the smothering leftist orthodoxy that the flier-istas embrace.

One sign of fascism, according to the flier, is the wearing of a “Make America Great Again!” ball cap. Since that is the symbol of our current President, a substantial part of the population is “fascist.” Earlier in the week, a set of “instructions”—of unknown origin—circulated nationwide. This “meme” claimed that “It’s okay to punch Nazis, and of course white male libertarians who advocate free speech.” If you disagree with me, I get to punch you, provided I’m one of the annointed who has politically correct views.

There are two difficulties here. First, these advocates are confused about the role of violence as being effective for their side. The state specializes in violence. It has (and, in fact, must have) guns, helicopters, tanks, and fighter jets. Our leftist zealots have no hope of resisting the power of the state. If it comes to violence, the state will win.

The bullies of the left are physically brave when confronting a few, isolated “fascists” on their ideologically segregated college campuses and “safe spaces.” But if violence starts, that’s not where it will end. President Trump this week has considered drafting national guard troops for immigration enforcement. Even if one grants (and I don’t) that the Trump side is dangerous, bringing a pocketknife to a machine-gunfight is going to turn out badly. The last thing that the political minority should advocate is violence.

Second, and more fundamentally, the right that is being invoked and relied on by the left is precisely “freedom of speech.” The very capacity being counted is the right to dissent. And I am a big fan of the right to dissent. That’s the reason that I’m a libertarian in the first place.

But many in the new generation of political activists assume that they will control the coercive power that decides who gets to speak, and who is “bashed.” Whenever they aren’t, of course, they are the first to advocate free speech rights, to be exercised by themselves and those who agree with them.

That’s not how it works. I understand that it is difficult when young people find themselves betrayed by “democracy.” It’s a stunning realization when you discover that a substantial part of the American population disagrees with you. After all, you took classes at the best schools, where they told you how smart you are; you gathered into discussion groups where “I feel that...” counts as an argument. You feel right now, for the first time, that the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. Welcome to my world, except that I’ve had that feeling for decades.


A generation whose entire experience with politics was vacuously validated by the Obama mass-hypnoses of 2008 and 2012 is suddenly confronted with the fact that one must persuade people. You can’t force them to agree with you. Because if anyone is going to be subjected to force, it’s the political minority. Rather than bashing, you might want to try talking to the folks who disagree with you. At worst, you’d be asserting the right to talk, and to disagree, even if your side no longer controls the coercive apparatus of the state.
 The thought of a "snowflake" having the balls to "bash the fash" is laughable.  Makes me want to wear a "Make America Great Again" hat.  As with all cowards, these people, operate only in a group and would never "bash" anyone, one-on-one.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Trump and Hillary perfectly embodied the climactic stage of each party before their final mutual sprint to collapse. Both had more than a tinge of the psychopath. Trump is the bluff that the Republicans called on themselves, having jettisoned anything identifiable as coherent principles translatable to useful action. Hillary was an American Lady Macbeth attempting to pull off the ultimate inside job by any means necessary, her wickedness so plain to see that even the voters picked up on it. These two are the old parties’ revenge on each other, and on themselves, for decades of bad choices and bad faith.", James Kunstler, A Hole in the Head

The Foreign Policy of the US: Permanent War

An equally insightful and depressing look into America's future - The United States of Permanent War: [emphasis mine]
As the foreign policy establishment continues to grapple with the consequences of Trump’s election, U.S. officials can still agree on one thing. The United States is a nation that is waging a permanent war.

In December 2016, President Obama reflected on the development in a speech that he delivered to US soldiers at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. “By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years,” Obama said. By continuing that war, “I will become the first president of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war.”

Notably, Obama did not issue his remarks to criticize the United States. He only made his point to note that Congress had never provided him with authority to perpetuate the wars of the Bush administration. “Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago – 15 years ago,” Obama said. Consequently, he wanted Congress to craft new legislation that made it appear as if it had not permitted the United States to remain at war forever. “Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war,” Obama said.

The Bush Plan

Regardless of what Obama really felt about the matter, the Bush administration had always intended for the United States to wage a permanent war. In the days after 9/11, President Bush provided the guiding vision when he announced in a speech to the nation that the United States would be fighting an indefinite global war on terror. “Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes,” Bush explained. “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.”

The following year, Director of Policy Planning Richard Haass provided additional confirmation of the administration’s intentions. “There can be no exit strategy in the war against terrorism,” Haass declared. “It is a war that will persist.” In other words, Haass announced that the United States would remain at war against terrorism forever. “There is unlikely to be an Antietam, a decisive battle in this war,” Haass stated. “An exit strategy, therefore, will do us no good. What we need is an endurance strategy.”

As US officials developed their endurance strategy, they also settled on a few guiding principles. For starters, US officials determined that they would have to maintain some kind of permanent presence in Afghanistan. “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked during the early years of the Obama administration. “In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.”

More recently, a number of officials in the Obama administration articulated a similar principle for the Middle East. In October 2016, for example, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that the United States would remain in the region well into the future. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, “it is probably not going to go away, and it’ll morph into something else or other similar extremist groups will be spawned,” Clapper said. “And I believe we’re going to be in the business of suppressing these extremist movements for a long time to come.”

This past December, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a similar point, arguing that coalition forces “must be ready for anything” and “must remain engaged militarily even after the inevitable expulsion of ISIL from Mosul and Raqqa.”

In essence, US officials agree that the war against terrorism must remain permanent.

The Trump Turn

Officials in the Trump administration, who are now taking over the endurance strategy, have also remained determined to keep the nation at war. Although Trump promised during his campaign that “war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” both he and his cabinet members have displayed a clear preference for war.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is perhaps most well known for once commenting that it was “a hell of a hoot” and “a hell of a lot of fun” to shoot enemy forces in Afghanistan, argued during his confirmation hearing that the United States should take advantage of its “power of intimidation.” In fact, Mattis pledged to increase the lethality of US military forces. “Our armed forces in this world must remain the best led, the best equipped, and the most lethal in the world,” Mattis insisted.

Furthermore, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has positioned himself as an even stronger advocate of war. For example, Tillerson insisted during his confirmation hearing that the Obama administration should have helped Ukrainian military forces fight Russia after Putin had seized Crimea in early 2014. “My opinion is there should have been a show of force, a military response, in defensive posture,” Tillerson said. In addition, Tillerson insisted that the Trump administration will not permit China to continue building islands in the South China Sea. “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also not going to be allowed,” Tillerson said.

Altogether, Tillerson argued that the United States must display a greater willingness to go to war. In the years ahead, the United States will follow “the old tenet of Teddy Roosevelt, walk softly and carry a big stick,” he promised.

Finally, Trump has displayed an even stronger preference for war. In his many public statements, Trump has essentially branded himself as the new face of the permanent war against terrorism. “Radical Islamic terrorism” is something that “we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” Trump promised during his inaugural address.

In short, officials in Washington are committed to perpetual war. Although they regularly promise to end war and support peace, they have spent the past 16 years transforming the United States into a nation that is permanently at war.

In fact, “the fighting is wonderful,” Trump has said.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Answer: Never

Question: When is enough, enough?  Today's WTF headline: Pentagon Considering 'Boots on the Ground' to Fight ISIS in Syria

First off, none of the "boots on the ground" will be worn by the children of the politicians who are shills for the military-industrial-congressional-security (MICS) complex.

Second, this once again proves there is nothing even remotely defensive about the Defense Department.

Third, the Deep State always wins.

Fourth, the overwhelming majority of Americans are sheeple.

Fifth, this will only result in blowback: terrorism at home and abroad, and, will result in the creation of more terrorists - all which of course are the exact aims of the American politicians and their cronies within the MICS.  It is a perpetual feedback machine.

Sixth: an idea, a movement, a concept, regardless of how offensive, cannot be killed by military means.   The War on Terror is a lesson learned from the end of the Cold War: no one actually ever believed the Soviet Union would collapse.  When it did, American politicians and their MICS cronies had to create an enemy that could never be defeated and hence, terrorism.