Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Sometimes a Show is Just a Show

31.05.2009 (9:32 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Stupidity ::

image

Sometimes I have to wonder why people think they need to have an opinion on everything.  Case in point: A man took his wife to the theater in New York and the Republican National Convention felt it necessary to respond critically to this act of kindness because the man was Barack Obama.

“As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills,” RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in an email this afternoon.

With thinking like this, it’s small wonder that this organization’s “product” has been two crushing defeats in as many election cycles.

News flash: American families have always struggled to pay the bills, even at the height of economic prosperity.  And GM was doomed to bankruptcy decades ago.  That it’s happening now is a nice coincidence given Mr. Obama’s anti-business agenda; however, the seeds were sown before the new president was even born.

If there’s a story here – and there ought to be – it’s that GM’s death knell was struck the day it gave in to the unions’ demands for higher-than-market-value wages and benefits.  The result was GM’s promise to provide life-long health care to retirees, an agreement that makes the company impossible to operate profitably now, a fact that makes it a perfect target for Democrat’s de facto nationalization.

Obviously none of this has anything to do with First Lady Michelle Obama collecting on the promise of a night out from her husband, which is the whole point.  The RNC should simply shut up and be thought fools rather than speak and leave no doubt.

My Personal Mea Culpa

30.05.2009 (8:49 pm) – Filed under: Liberalism,Politics ::

Deliberate readers of this blog will have noticed its diminished content recently, a reduction caused in large part by the demands of my day job.  As rewarding as having this forum can be, it must be said that it doesn’t put so much as a crumb of food on the table.

Another component of my recent malaise has been that of hopelessness.  Change, it was said, was coming and with it hope.  Change has come in the form of a massive recession and government nationalization of of the banking and auto industries.  It should be obvious that the hope that was promised was an illusion.  Instead, our genuine hope, that of freedom and opportunity, has been diminished, a victim of the liberal steamroller that my fellow Americans saw fit to elect to the office of president.

It’s not easy to be ignored, as conservative and libertarian voices across this country now are.  Yet it is a useful lesson: I now understand how the howling mobs of liberal commentators such as those at dKos and FDL descended into madness, left alone as they were with their own thoughts.  Happily for you, dear reader, I have no intention of lowering myself to that level of discourse.  But neither will I yield the entirety of the web to such as those.

Speaking of which, the Texas Liberal recently went on-record calling the Texas legislature a “malignancy” because it failed to expand an existing welfare program for the state’s children.  He went on to correlate the election process to a cancerous mutation and pronounced such outcomes as the inevitable result of a sick and dying system.

TL’s analogy is interesting.  But as is so often the case with liberal thinkers his logic is turned in the wrong direction, something that’s easy to do when one’s initial premise is incorrect.  Like others of his ideological bent, TL seems to believe that the government exists to ensure quasi-equal outcomes for its citizens. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  As I said, his thinking is useful, so let’s take his analogy and use it correctly to demonstrate this point.

A healthy state and/or country is not unlike a healthy human body.  In some respects the government is not unlike the human brain in that it makes the rules that the rest of the body is to follow and so long as those decisions make sense, the health of the governed is enhanced or at least not endangered.

Conversely, when the brain makes unfortunate decisions the body suffers, as when it is asked to do the impossible.  If I attempt to leap from the top of the Allen Center ala Neo in The Matrix I will quickly meet my end, no matter how much my brain tries to convince itself that what it’s done is a good idea.

One such analogous event in government is the fiscal suicide that politicians of both parties have committed over the last 4 decades.  Like jumping from a skyscraper’s penthouse suite, this cowardly, undisciplined act can have only one outcome – the destruction of the body the government was supposed to protect.  Make no mistake, our past leaders failed us, Republican and Democrat alike.

In the present, liberals like Mr. Obama and TL are defending his massive takeover of finance and business and his unspeakably enormous federal budgets by sticking out their tongues and crying, “Nyah, he did it too!” while pointing the finger at former President Bush.  While it’s true that Mr. Bush was a fiscal failure, his mismanagement of the economy was the barest taste of the bitter medicine that Mr. Obama would have us suffer.

But rather than dwell on the non-existent trillions that willed borrowed from our children, let us instead return to our examination of TL’s cancer metaphor.  In doing so, recall that the brain, important as it is to the function of the body, is in reality far from the central authority that TL imagines the government of Texas and the United States to be.

Rather, the parts of the body operate independently of the brain for the most part, going about their business unimpeded by the fantasies conjured up upstairs in the neural passageways.  This is a good thing lest the body stop breathing and die while the brain idles, entranced by the drama of the latest episode of The View or the Texas legislature.  Each part of the body, down to the very cells that make it up, functions entirely on its own, automatically, without direction from the brain.  It is beautiful and miraculous, which is as it should be in a healthy system.

As a case in point, consider the arm as it performs a useful function.  Should the brain attempt to direct each and every fiber of the muscles involved in the motion of assembling an automobile, for example, it would quickly be overwhelmed by the complexity of directing literally trillions of moving parts.  No such operation can be done by the central authority, as, for those who may have forgotten, was demonstrated quite clearly in the Soviet Union over the period of 7 decades in the 20th century, to the dismay of hundreds of millions.

Likewise, the function of government is to set broad goals and gross direction, not micro-manage its citizens.  Just as the brain cannot direct the arm from afar, Washington and Austin cannot successfully force people to do what it wants them to do simply by passing laws and spending bills.  Human society just doesn’t work that way.  It can’t, any more than Joe Stalin’s 5 Year Plans produced wealth in Russia.

Indeed, a governing agency that forces individuals to act against their own interests is itself the creator of a cancer that rots the body from within.  It may appear to be successful in the short run, just as Stalin’s produce-or-die model generated lurching successes for a time.  However, any achievements made in such a fashion are necessarily unsustainable.  When the individual cells give inevitably out and the body rebels, whether from sheer fatigue or sickness, the resulting collective failure is disastrous.

Liberalism is such a force in government.  It seeks as a principle component of its ideology to force individuals to surrender their rights and property so that it may transfer them to others.  In doing so it steals from its citizens, robbing them of their earnings and inheritance to enrich its adherents.  It should be understood that this is an act that is altogether destructive and entirely different than – and totally incompatible with – individual charity.  The former is theft, the latter virtue, and they are nothing alike.

Just as cells generally function in harmony with each other in the human body, so do most individuals live independently in a free and democratic society.  The function of government, which TL has so badly misunderstood, is to take minimally invasive action when that is not the case.  In this analogy its function is that of the skilled surgeon who intervenes to fix a specific defect within the body so it can again work properly.  This rather than acting as an infinitely controlling puppet master that pulls the strings of every citizen in an effort to create an otherwise unattainable outcome, thereby driving the entire body to its destruction.

For now I’ll leave you with a question:  What then is the cancer as relates to government?

Pakistan’s Army Killing Taliban in Mingora

23.05.2009 (10:04 pm) – Filed under: Pakistan,Terrorism ::

image

Not long ago we were worrying about Pakistan’s apparent lack of will to grapple with its Taliban problem and wondering if the government there – and the nuclear weapons it controls – would stay in power.  Now Pakistan’s army is going house-to-house in Mingora to root terrorists out of the Swat valley’s main city and having success.

Maj Gen Athar Abbas:

“This is an extremely difficult, extremely dangerous operation, because clearance has to be done street by street, house by house.”

So how is it going?  Pretty well, according to reports. 

The BBC says that the Taliban deny that 17 of their terrorists have been killed in the city.  Meanwhile the Pakistani army claims that more than 1000 Taliban have been killed in this month’s offensive versus a loss of some 50 government troops.

One has to take these numbers with a grain of salt.  But it appears that Pakistan is doing very well against the terrorists, which leads me to question if the Taliban weren’t deliberately lulled in to a false sense of their own strength by the government in Islamabad.

Doubtful.  Nevertheless, the effect at the moment is the same, whether through dumb luck or brilliant bluffing, the Taliban is exposed and being pounded for it.

According to the BBC, “The [Taliban] spokesman also said the Taliban would fight the security forces to their last breath.”

One can only hope.

Is Debt Default Immoral?

23.05.2009 (7:49 am) – Filed under: Finance,Society ::

image

Megan McArdle has wrestled with this question and came up with a wonderfully clear answer:

If people really acted as if the choice to default were morally neutral, we’d either lose most of our credit system, or the legal rules would have to be much more punitive.

That doesn’t answer the root question but it is a practical fact that many people seem to forget:  The ease with which one person can get a loan is inversely proportional to how faithfully other people repay their own.  Without a shared monetary morality, our financial life as we know it cannot continue to exist.

Perhaps moral is the wrong word to use here; ethical would be a better word choice in my opinion.  Proceeding from there, let me say that yes, there is an absolute ethical obligation that we take on when we borrow money from someone else – specifically to repay it in accordance with the agreement we made with the other party.

The fact that the other party may be a giant financial conglomerate makes no difference re the ethics of the situation.  If you borrow more than you can pay back or simply choose to default on your obligations, you are in fact acting unethically.

If one must look for scapegoats to hang for the current financial situation, those people who failed to meet their obligation to repay their debts must be first on the list of suspects.

New Drug Czar Making Sense, Cops Suspicious

14.05.2009 (9:49 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Drugs ::

image

Gil Kerlikowske, new leader of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that it’s time to stop thinking of the nation’s problem with drugs as a war because it’s harmful, both here at home and abroad:

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

Kerlikowske, who was police chief in Seattle when it’s tolerance for marijuana use was well-known, sees the issue as much about treatment as it is about law enforcement.

If – and it’s a big question – the government should do anything about drug use, treatment is a logical approach because it deals with – or at least attempts to – the root problem, which is the user’s desire for the substance he or she abuses.

Kerlikowske’s lack of interest in enforcing minor drug laws has police unions and officials looking at him with more than a little skepticism.  Sgt. Richard O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild is one of them:

“The average rank-and-file officer is saying, ‘He can’t control two blocks of Seattle, how is he going to control the nation?’ ”

So is James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police:

“While I don’t necessarily disagree with Gil’s focus on treatment and demand reduction, I don’t want to see it at the expense of law enforcement. People need to understand that when they violate the law there are consequences.”

Pasco is right, of course.  But laws are supposed to be just, sensible, and equitable and our draconian federal drug laws are none of these, particularly as relates to relatively harmless substances like marijuana.

Pasco’s literal thinking is like that of a horse with blinders.  All he can see is his little piece of the picture as he charges forward into battle.  Step back from the fray and it’s a completely different world.  Where is the sense in jailing tens of thousands of young men because they choose to inhale the smoke of a non-sanctioned plant?  Ridiculous.

Barack Obama, Spendthrift

14.05.2009 (9:18 pm) – Filed under: Finance,Politics ::

image

While speaking at Arizona State University, Barack Obama called on students to exercise fiscal restraint and not over-leverage themselves.  Strangely, the Gateway Pundit says that’s exactly Obama did in his personal life by mortgaging his family’s home until they were well “under water”.  No surprise then that:

Obama’s budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, and adds more to the debt than all previous presidents — from George Washington to George W. Bush — combined.

Pretty audacious then for Obama to call on twenty-somethings to scrimp and sacrifice while he allows their future to be spent on his pork-o-licious budget in the present. 

Obama also had this to say about living the Life of Reilly on unearned money:

“We can’t keep on just borrowing from China,” Obama said at a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, outside Albuquerque. “We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt.”

Do as I say, not as I do, obviously.  Now that’s true audacity – without even so much as a side of hope for future generations to gnaw on.

Reich Wrong on Social Security, Medicare

13.05.2009 (10:25 pm) – Filed under: Finance,Medicine,Politics ::

image

Writing about the $13T in unfunded Social Security obligations, Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, says “Social Security is a tiny problem” and “Medicare is entirely different. It’s a monster.”

Reich is right that Social Security is the lesser of two evils; however, he’s dead wrong about Social Security being a little problem.  To put matters in perspective, the Social Security debt alone is equal the entire federal government for 5 years if one assumes a rational spending plan or 3 years of the Obama administration.  It’s also nearly the entire annual gross domestic product of the United States.

Reich reckons that the GDP will grow at more than the feds’ estimated rate of 2.6% annually – this despite the devastating recession that’s swept over this country since Barack Obama was elected president.  This seems unlikely given several factors. 

Some of these fundamental problems include:

  • The effective nationalization of the banking and automotive industries that threatens to undermine confidence in the entire business community
  • The massive current and projected budget shortfalls that rob future generations of economic freedom in order to spend now
  • Our continued failure to pursue a comprehensive national energy strategy that puts our energy security – national security – at risk
  • A failing public education system that produces too few qualified workers and too many dropouts and know-nothings to make up for the fiscal mismanagement of current leadership

There are other issues such as global unrest and Islamicization, foreign competition, and a home-grown, country-wide sense of entitlement that further exacerbate the problem of financial folly that the American government has created over the last 40 years.

The Social Security problem – the little one, mind – dwarfs the current woes of the banking sector, problems caused in large part, it pays to remember, by government’s intervention in the market in the form of mandating loans to unqualified home buyers.  That crisis spurred Barack Obama into a full-speed gallop to the rescue, the Congressional coffers literally dripping billions of dollars as Democrats made haste to shoot the wad of their political windfall in the name of economic stimulation.  What then will the coming Social Security crisis entail when it hits a couple of decades down the road?

Will it even matter?  Probably not.  Perhaps the reason that Reich can be so cavalier about Social Security tanking is that the Medicare train wreck will happen first and so devastate our financial situation that Social Security will simply cease to exist.

Reich says that Medicare can be fixed by eliminating waste, forcing people into preventative care, and reducing medication.  The government health care program will be so much more efficient than our current system that we’ll save $50T by converting to it.  Not bloody likely.

Most people agree that the real solution to the health care cost crisis is reducing demand for health care.  While it’s fine to talk about preventative care – I’m certain that doing more in that area would save some money – the fact is that human bodies are born to die. 

Despite knowing this, we spend far too many of our resources keeping dying people alive as long as technology allows.  Until we face that unpleasant truth no real progress will be made in addressing the rising cost of health care, particularly in a government-run system that is bound to obey public opinion rather than economic reality.

Time for a Gay Supreme Court Justice?

09.05.2009 (12:05 am) – Filed under: Gay Rights,Politics ::

image

Satyam Khanna says that Senator Jeff Sessions’ statement, “I think that would be a big concern that the American people might feel — might feel uneasy about that”, qualifies him as anti-gay. 

Typical Think Progress hyperbole.  Citizens might indeed be concerned about a gay member of the Supreme Court and the rulings that might stem from such an appointment.

Why?  Because all but the most disciplined of us are inclined to judge those most like us more favorably than those less similar.  Judges are supposed to put personal feelings – and political ideologies – aside when they put on their robes.  To say that doesn’t always happen would be quite the understatement.  So the concern is legitimate, at least in part, simply because of human nature.

That said, it’s likely that there are qualified homosexual judges out there whose rulings would not be any less bad than, say, those of John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  It’s certainly possible for President Obama to appoint a homosexual equivalent of Clarence Thomas, albeit it unlikely given Obama’s liberal streak and the correlation of leftist politics with homosexuality.

Even less clear are the true demographics of homosexuality.  By being generous, one might peg the percentage of homosexual Americans at 5%.  While a significant minority, there is still no basis to the idea that homosexuals are underrepresented on the court.  A group would have to at least approach 11% to grant that claim legitimacy.

So what was it exactly that Jeff Sessions said?

“I don’t think a person who acknowledges that they have gay tendencies is disqualified per se for the job”

And:

“Republicans do not believe in identity politics.”

Admittedly the last is a lie.  Most politicians not only believe in identity politics, they rely on it.  The real question is whether one is allowed by political correctness to embrace or castigate a particular identity brand at a particular moment in time.

Sessions’ crime, like that of so many Republicans, was telling the literal truth Americans’ feelings on the subject.

Senate Now Telling Texans What to Eat

08.05.2009 (8:20 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Texas ::

image

In a move that seems more appropriate in the big-government Mecca of New York City than on the open range in Texas, the state senate has passed a measure this week that would dictate to Texans what kind of food they can order at restaurants. 

Under a bill passed Friday by the Senate, restaurants across the state would be banned from cooking with oil that contains trans fat.

Many major fast-food chains and doughnut shops already have stopped using trans fat, said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, sponsor of the measure.

It’s hardly surprising that the bill was sponsored by a Democrat given the party’s natural tendency to inflict its help on innocent citizens, whether they want it or not.  Unbelievable.

That we don’t should be obvious to an observer of any intellect whatever.  See, we already have a foolproof – and I use that word with some specificity here – way to avoid food with trans fat in it.

How could a lone individual ever hoope to accomplish a miraculous feat that, according to Shapleigh and other Democrats, seems to require the legislative force of the state senate to achieve?

Simple:  Don’t frequent restaurants serving such fare. 

Lesson for the Texas Senate:  Free market solutions are always the best ones because there’s no dissonance between the solution and the people it’s being solved for.

Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand Fascinating, Disappointing

03.05.2009 (12:40 pm) – Filed under: Literature,Philosophy ::

Though not normally on my reading list, it came to my attention that Playboy has published the text of it’s 1964 interview with Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand on its Facebook site. 

It’s a fascinating interview in which Rand easily rebuffs Alvin Toffler’s attempts to paint her views as inconsistent and out-of-touch – highly recommended reading.

Atlas was voted the 2nd most influential book of all time, trailing only the Bible and it’s easy to see why upon reading it.  No more consistent or direct philosophy of personal conduct has ever been articulated.

One thing I found disappointing about the interview with Rand was her discounting of individual value systems.  Rand’s own views obviously suited her very well.  But the ultimate individualist must also recognize that every person prioritizes values differently.  This is particularly true in regard to matters of faith, a subject that Rand treats with utter disdain and thereby fails to account for individual value systems, an essential part of any philosophical movement.

more »