Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Political Spectrum

It was the French Revolution
that gave us the concept of
a left-right political spectrum
One of the most interesting, and flawed in my opinion, is the left-right political dichotomy.  In one forum, radio, and television programs you see individuals raging against the 'socialists' in power and in an entirely different forum, radio, and television program you could see an someone raging against the 'corporate fascists'. Its even more interesting when you consider the conventional political spectrum that considers these ideologies as diametrically opposed to each other, they really aren't, but more on that later.  Here is a little chart of the left right spectrum, on the American political axis, on how it breaks down, generally.

I found this post difficult precisely because you could get very in depth what each political classification means, and whether or not that classification would be accurate, but that could take multiple posts.  Instead I'm going to give you a brief blurb on how socialism, communism, Nazism, and fascism is defined, via wikipedia no less, and then tell you why the differences really don't matter.

The definition of socialism is very broad, too the point of being almost useless in my opinion. On the one side you have democratic socialism, many European states are given as an example, and on the other you have the command economies of the USSR, the internationalist militant revolutionary socialism called Lenninism , and the other varieties such as Maoism and Stalinism, so forth and so on. 

Facism, summarizing the Wikipedia article, is a nationalistic ideology that uses totalitarianism as a ways unit the populace of nation culturally.  What should be noted is that nationalism isn't really that different from a militant form of nationalism. In fact, the only reason we call this 'form' of government fascist rather than militant nationalist, is because of Mussolini.  Seeking a way to define what was really just militant nationalism, he used ancient Roman imagery to galvanize the Italian people.  Often pronouncing the rise of the new Roman empire.  He called this ideology facism because in ancient Rome the symbol of power and authority was the facses. It was a symbol of the power of life and death held by the two consuls elected each year. Think of it as a something akin to the scepter carried by the nobility of the feudal era, or a badge carried by officers of the law today.  This is why we call it facism militant totalitarian nationlism, because that is what it was, and nationalism in and off it sled isn't necessarily totalitarianism.

Next you have National Socialism, or Nazism. It is listed as a strain of fascism with a particular bent on anti-antisemitism. But economically it was all over the map.  While it supported private property it initially started out as an anti-big business ideology and anti-capitalist. It was also anti-marxist, though I suspect this  had much more to do with Hitlers fear of the Communist Russians more than to any real ideology.  When looking at the Nazis you see an ideology that doesn't neatly fit into the conventional political paradigm, and the Nazis themselves also rejected to being a right wing or left wing ideology according to the conventional political spectrum.

It is very fascinating to read and wade through all the political ideologies and their nuances. However, over time, you will notice that there is a common theme throughout all of these ideologies in that they end up being totalitarian.  This brings me to the second political ideology chart that is makes its rounds on the internet.

 This takes into account that militant nationalism (fascism) and militant socialism (leninism and its variants thereof) are essentially the same in result, even if they differ in rhetoric.  However, I am not a fan of this chart because, in my mind, you cannot separate economic and personal freedoms. Moreover the chart isn't accurate even according to its own metrics.  There are plenty examples of socialist and conservatives restricting personal or economic freedoms, even though the chart should indicate that the opposite the farther along the political spectrum you go.  The fact is, that there is no one item, policy, or hot button issue that is just a social issue or just an economic issue, life doesn't work like that. For example, if you pass a law banning smoking you will affect businesses that cater to patrons who smoke.

I personally like to distill items into their simplest components, and for me the simplest component is control to the state. Does an ideology, or government, give the state more or less control over your life?

Here is a revised graphic I made.  On the far left are ideologies, or organizations that wield the most control over your life.  Under fascism, communism, or nazism the state controls your life. It tells you how to think, what you can do, who you can associate with, and even how you spend your free time. Under these societies not only is freedom of speech outlawed, but certain behaviors, such a homosexuality, severely punished; moreover, you have no say in the matter unless your a member of the ruling group in good standing.  What many will find interesting is that I place the GOP as a left leaning party.

The reasons for that are simple.  When liberty, or lack of state control in your life, is your political metric then the GOP belongs as a center left party.  They are just as willing as the democratic party is to flout free market economics when it suits them, and the republicans have the same propensity for using government for social engineering. They have also shown they are unwilling to come even close to honoring their small government and fiscal responsibility promises  And as the Captain has said on many occasion, we heavily on the path of socialism or are already there.  When Paul Ryans budget, which simply slowed the rate of increases, is considered an economic travesty by our media; and the budgets of Paul the Elder and Younger are virtually ignored, then you know you have reached that point.

Friday, June 29, 2012

No cavalry for economic economy

Onward boys! The world economy
needs us!
The US economy, the engine that drives the world, continues to struggle.  The Europeans continue to deal with their debt crisis that affects other nations such as Japan, all the while markets respond irrationally, or perhaps grasping for whatever debris that will prevent them from sinking, to short sighted deals.  It seems that the West is finished, its time as the center of the world done leaving room for the new economies and powers of the world to take their spots.  Well not exactly.

China's economy continues to stagger as they run out of the ability to artificially stimulate their economy via subsidies to unprofitable export industries and money funneled towards infrastructure projects with negative return rates.  It also appears that Brazil and India, the other two rising stars of the world are also facing economic troubles.  It's a given that China will face an economic collapse of sorts, their property bubble dwarfed ours and the nations cities struggle to service their debts, but if the other two rising economic stars are struggling right now then what will happen when the next wave of the crisis hits?  The answer is simple.  There will be no cavalry to save the day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Free Video: "France's Geographic Challenge"

A free video from Stratfor. It's one of my favorite periodicals to go to because it ascribes to the realpolitik concept of geopolitics, and if you ever see a subscription on the cheap I would recommend it. There is more to the world stage than what you hear about in the mainstream media. Not necessarily because they lie, but because they don't dig as deep as they should.  Anyways, here is the video below.

Unf$%ing Real

Just say the news today on the supreme court law.  I am literally speechless as I was confident that the insurance mandate would be struck down.  True our Republic was wounded and government was increasingly running roughshod over our rights but I had always believed that even the elites had some sort of attachment to the constitution, even if it was skewed.  Today my beliefs were shattered.  The supreme court has said, in essence, that the government has the right to force us to buy a product that we may not want.  This is literally unprecedented. I could rant on about this, but I have matters to attend too, and frankly I am to depressed at the moment to comment.  I am sure save capitalism and the captain will have a few words about todays ruling.

Addendum:  Now that I have cooled a bit I can write a bit more.  I won't go into the details of the ruling and what it means since Vox has done such a good job already, the depth and breadth of his blogging astounds me sometimes, but I will muse on it a bit.

The turn about of events is certainly depressing. Those of us schooled in liberty, and having an understanding of economics outside of the route keynesian that is instilled throughout highschool and college, understand how economically and politically disasterous this even will turn out to be.  In time, those who cheer will rue this day, though when that days comes they will not understand why or who to blame. Now this law could eventually be repealed, like how prohibition was repealed. It isn't outside the realm of possibility, but only time will tell.  Moreover this law won't single handedly lay America low.

More importantly however, it is a great blow to liberty.  Even though prohibition was later repealed it established a dangerous precident and in some ways lead to the eventual catastrophe that is the drug war. Though many scoff that it would be ludicrous, this precident could one day pave the way, however indirectly by congress, to mandates telling Americans what to buy or how much they can buy.  But then, if your reading this you probably already know this.

There are two things that can be drawn from this. One, it si absolutely foolish to vote republican in hopes to elect constitutionally conservative judges.  Progressivism is just as much a part and parcel of the GOP as it is the democrats, the rhetoric is only different.  Two, the idea of impartial court judges is laughable, and there really should be a push to limit justices terms on the bench.  There will be those that argue that opens it up to partisanship and away from judical impartiality. I would argue that those elements that do not exist so lets not contninue the farce.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The new hot point in the world

Save Capitalism already covered the most interesting economic event today; so I will post an interesting article by stratfor. It requires a subscription, so I will summarize it.  It covers the growing focus of the United States towards the Pacific, specifically China's growing naval capability.
China has made enormous advances in its military capability over the years.  They've had too, considering that their geopgraphic position makes them extremely vulnurable to being blockaded by the foreign powers. China has Japan, a nation very closely aligned to the US,  directly to the east, and their main acces to the world lies in the South China sea; which you can see is ensconsed by the few straights running through Indonesia, the Philipines, and coordoned off by the Ryuuku island chain of Japan, which houses a major US military installation in Okinawa.

China greatly fears that one day the US might try to straggle them economically, politicaly, and militarily the same way the US did to the Soviet Union.  Very real fears, as the United States has taken a much firmer stance with China than it has in the recent past. Yes neoconservative news sites abound with our 'placation' of our new chinese overlords.  But public speeches are not the same thing as private dialouge and actual foreign policy.  The US has increased its committment to the nations like the Phillipines, which has a dispute over the exclusive economic zone with China, and continues to address its military focus on the south pacific. Remember the spy plane incident a decade ago? Those incidents will continue to pop up as China continues to exert its influence in the region.

This is the reason why the Chinese have invested heavily in developing their new aircraft carrier; however, a carrier alone does not a threat make. China still lacks the support infrastructure and training needed to make a carrier task force.  Getting the infrastructure put together could take as little as a decade, but the trained man power and leadership required could take 20 years or longer.  Because of that, China has focused their naval capability on defensive measures, anti-ship missiles, and very quiet diesel submarines.  Both are potentially very effective defensive measures, one that the US must consider carefully. But even then Chinese military leaders know that they cannot win a long drawn out war, a chinese general was quoted, that it (fighting the US) was tantamount to throwing an egg against a wall. Their goal is to make the conflict so bloody as to deter the US from persuing it.

The biggest variable isn't the anti-ship missiles, which I imagine are very stationary and are in fact vulnurable themselves to a variety of measures, but the diesel submarine.  Very quite, and in the littoral coasts they can be very difficult to detect.  This is why the Chinese have amassed the largest diesel submarine force in the world.  These vessels would prove very dangerous to a carrier task force if they were able to get past the US anti-submarine net, given the underwater topographical features of the south china sea, a real possibility.  Coupled with the anti-ship missile shield that China is building and it is apparant that the Chinese seek to keep the Americans at arms length. Yet, even with all focus by the Chinese during these last two decades, they are still extremely vulnurable to US naval power.

Many posters in the manosphere, economic blogs, and the internet in general lament, or rejoice, what they view as downfall of te United States.  They point to the fall of past empires before it, most notably the Roman Empire.  The barbarians are at our gates, our leaders corrupt, our government incapable of action, and our economy ruined.  They aren't wholly wrong, but I do not agree with their sentiments.
I am a major student of Roman history, as American history and cultural values largely mirror that of our ancient ancestors, and I would argue that we are more Rome circa Sulla and Marius, the two consuls who began the end of the republic and the rise of Caesar and Agustus, and less Edward Gibbon Decline and Fall.  I would recommend anyone who reads this post to check out The History of Rome a set of recorded podcasts about one mans studies into the Roman Empire.  It's rather informative, complete, and even when I disagree with his conclusions, well thought out.

I will argue my standpoint on why the US has not seen its last days being the dominant power in the world at a later date, and have covered it somewhat in earlier posts. Suffice it to say, our control of the worlds oceans, paticularly the North Atlantic and entire Pacific precludes any real challenger.  Yes the world has increasingly relied  on ephemeral bits of digitized information, but until you can invent a teleporter to move physical goods across the internet, then control of physical terrain and space matters.  Most importantly, control of the oceans, through which trillions of dollars of goods are exchanged throughout the world. And to put it simply, the US controls the worlds oceans.

The US possesses the largest and most technologically advanced navy in the world.  It posses 12 aircraft carriers not including the psuedo helicopter carriers of expiditionary units or mothballed older carriers sitting in drydock, which is more than the rest of the world combined. More importantly, each carrier is part of a task force capable of blue water operations.  Only France and Great Britain can realistically claim to have a blue water capable navy.

A blue water Navy is a navy that is capable of operating for extended periods away from its coastal waters. Specifically being capable of maintaining the logistics and communication networks to do so en mass.  It's one thing to send one or two frigates or submarines to the far corners of the world, quite another to do so with a fleet.  China currently lacks this capability, though they are certainly trying to change that.
Another problem for China, is that while they possess the largest diesel submarine force in the world, the United States posses the largest nuclear powered submarine force that is equal in size to China's and far more technologically advanced. China could certainly do damage, but the US navy can punch right back. The decades long cold war with the USSR, a major naval power in its time that rivalled the US, has lead the Navy to develop extensive anti-submarine counter measures.  This means that the Chinese Navy stands little chance against the US in blue water operations, but even in littoral seas the fighting would be difficult.
Adding to China's difficulty is that tactics that the Chinese could use to keep the US at arms length from their coasts, are the same tactics the US Navy could use to bottle China in.  There are very few avenues from which China could sends its navy. The US itself could block those avenues, or use its allies to do so.  Conflict between China would most assuredly draw Japan in, whether the nation wants to be involved or not, and other island nations would likely be amendable to US operations.

China's best bet, outside of avoiding conflict outright, would be to do massive damage to the US Navy at the onset of hostilities and hope to situate its defenses in such as way as to disuade the US of the possibility of a long and drawn out conflict.  This was Japans strategy during WWII.  However, outside of luring most of the US fleets into a trap, the ability of the Chinese to do so is limited, there is not much China can do.  Moreover, tensions with the south east asian nations over their claims on the south china sea makes it unlikely that they would find allies in the conflict.  So if China were able to strike a severe blow to US capabilities, which would buy them the time to establish defensive perimeters around the straights, they would likely be unable to secure the allies needed to actually do so.  This doesn't even begin to go into their inability to operate in the open ocean.  China could possibly secure the south china sea, but they would still have to risk US naval power elsewhere in the world.

We need to remember that the US navy can operate within strike range of Chinese shores, and has demonstrated this fact over the years. This naturally antagonizes the Chinese, and is a source of consternation amongst globalists, peacenicks, and the pacifist strain of libertarians.  The reason the US does so is simple. Firstly, it demonstrates a willingess the defend its erstwhile allies, and perhapes to dissuade them from thinking of going against US policy. Secondly, it telegraphs the might of the US navy. It has the largest navy, the most carriers, the most fleets, the best technology, and controls the worlds gps system. It can go where it wants, when it wants. The US navy is to America what the legions were to Rome. Unstoppable, or at least that is the image wants to present. Remember Sun Tsu, the greatest general can get his opponent to give up without a battle by making his opponent think that the conclusion is foregone.

The likelihood of US occupation is non-existant. America has no desire to occupy China, and controlling the nation militarily would be an impossibility, or even if it were posible, economically ruinous.  But economic strangulation is another story.  China experienced this once during their sick man if Asia years, when the great European powers and Japan carved little holdings out of China. That is China's greatest fear.
China is in a precarious position. Despite the set backs that the US has experienced recently, it is still the biggest boy on the block. It is in the center of, and if it does not control then heavily influences, the global financial, economic, and political systems.  This means the US has the power. And even if nations do not like what the US does, like in Iraq, they will do nothing to oppose it outside of a few speeches. Now this doesn't mean US dominance will continue, or that China would lose a conflict. But a rational examination of long term trends and nation fundementals makes the scale lean in favor of the US. Expect south east Asia to get more tense in the coming years.

In a nutshell..

The European Union can best be illustrated in one simple way, when its aims cannot be achieved through democratic ends, then bureaucratic ones will suffice.  I say this because the very document that gives the European Union legitimacy. as a pseudo-supranational entity. was defeated during the ratification process by a few nations. After the defeat of the constitution, the bureaucratic elites of the EU simply usurped the democratic process by attaching the amendments of the constitution into Lisbon Treaty, the legal basis for the EU as it exists now.

The Lisbon Treaty was never put to a popular vote, instead it was voted on by each of the national parliaments of each respective nation. And ordinarily I wouldn't object to this.  The US constitution was signed an agreed to by each states duly elected representatives, however, this isn't a cross comparison.  The fact is that the EU and national elites, not liking the results of the Constitutional ratification process, where the constitution could not be ratified unless it passed through popular vote from each member state; decided to ignore the results, and their own rules, and pass it via a different means.  They changed the rules, like the dammed brat who always said he had a bullet proof magic cloak whenever he started losing laser tag.  That is what particularly incenses me.

Is it any surprise then, that an entity formed by politicos with such disdain for their own rules crafts wordy 2,500 word regulation on minutiae such as hazelnuts? Or that MEPs are ejected simply for speech that might make someone uncomfortable, despite the fact that the man targeted for that speech made the very same allusion (about 2:50 into the video) to a euro skeptic member of parliament.  The only difference between the two examples is theatrics, not content.  Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament, often blogs about the double standards that pervades within the European Union. That used its might to essentially force Greece to remove its prime minister.

For the sake of a possibility of a United Europe, that they hoped would be a counterweight to United States on the global stage, the European elites were willing to sub verse their own established rules. And now are willing to force financial and economic ruin on its lesser members to avoid possible disintegration.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Immigration. National Culture Matters.

Immigration has always been a hot topic in this country.  From the colonial days when Americans, including the illustrious and abolitionist Benjamin Franklin, feared that the recent German immigrants would never assimilate, to the discrimination that Irish Immigrants faced during the mid-19th century, and of course the kerfuffle we have now.  Taking a broad, and in depth look, at American history and it is hard to take claims about a tolerant American golden age, which some immigration advocates bring up, seriously.  At the same time it should temper fears about cultural balkanization.

But it doesn't Americans are more divided than ever on illegal immigration.  We, in the national sense, want our government to enforce our laws but we also willing to bend the rules for certain individuals and select situations. While many wouldn't believe it, the political right on the American spectrum, is deeply divided on the issue. 

On the one side you have conservatives, both cultural and neo, who argue about the dangers of illegal immigration.  Jobs are frequently mentioned, but the argument gaining most traction today is the fear of balkanization.  Many of these individuals fear that by allowing the immigrants that we run the risk of denaturing our cultural homogeneity.  These individuals distrust multiculturalism, or rather the kind of multiculturalism that is promoted by the left and academia.  They point to nations like Yugoslavia as an example of what can happen in the worst case scenario. But for even stronger comparisons they liken the events today to what happened to the Romans. Where their empire and civilization was taken under by a wave of hording barbarians.

On the other side you have libertarians, though not all libertarians are in agreement on this issue, that argue the opposite.  That the history of the United States has shown that every 'feared' balkinization and cultural denaturing that would come from these new immigrants never materialized.  That these immigrants create new economic opportunities and that in time they too will assimilate like those who came before the.

My take on the issue? They are wrong and they are right.  I say that because as a conservatively inclined libertarian I understand both sides of the issue and where they come from.  Conservatives are not motivated by racism, despite the claims of many leftists, but by real concerns from observation of real world events.  Looking at what is happening in southern California, particularly Los Angeles, and one cannot help but be a bit apprehensive.  How can I not feel a little threatened when we have individuals protester for their civil rights, but waving the standard of another nation? However, their comparisons to Yugoslavia or Rome or wrong.

Yugoslavia is an obvious example.  It was never a homogeneous nation, it started out as a kingdom right after WWI.  The strongest ethnic group in the region manged to take regions that breaking away from the dying Austro-Hungarian empire and create their own kingdom.  It was a supranational nation, meaning a nation created from many separate nations.  The obvious analogues today to this would be the now defunct Soviet Union, and the European Union in the eurocrates ever get their way.  Conservatives are right to argue that supranational entities are inherently unstable and prone to break up.  Their mistake is arguing that the US had become such an entity through excess immigration, specifically of the illegal sort.

This brings me to the Roman analogy.  The Romans are an interesting example as they created a supranation of sorts that managed to last for almost a 1000 years, starting this point after they began to expand out of Italy.  However, the mistake many make is assuming it was the barbarian hordes were what did the empire in.  Firstly, despite modern renditions of the cartographic boundaries of the Roman empire depicting it as a momentous entity, it was more of a patchwork of allied nations, puppet kings, and colonies for most of its existence. The argument also ignores the fact that barbarians had always resided in the empire.

The Helvetii, the Gaullic tribe that Caesar first used as an excuse to begin his campaigns in Gaul, had resided in territory that bordered Roman territory, and Roman territory itself.  Furthermore while Rome did have cities throughout the empire, these were essentially a string of colonies.  There were other numerous settlements throughout the empire that never were 'Roman'.  People need to remember that the number of 'citizens' throughout the empire, prior to the edict that made citizenship universal, never exceeded 2%.  The vast majority of the inhabitants of Rome were not Romans, moreover Germanic tribes constantly moved through Roman territories, sometimes peacefully sometimes not, throughout the empires existence.

If the Roman empire stood for almost a millenia with a vast population of peregni (or foreign subjects) then the claims that having tens of millions of Spanish speaking immigrants toppling the US seem a bit, hyperbolic, to an extent.  Foreigners residing in a land alone do not bring ruination upon a nation. However, the conservatives do bring up a salient point, one that libertarians often miss.

This is the cultural aspect.  Individuals who immigrate to a nation will not assimilate unless it is in their best interest to do so.  Furthermore, it is in a nations best interest to maintain some sort of cultural cohesion.  What ultimately did the empire in was a bureaucracy that had removed any real incentive for the peregni, who were now nominally but not culturally Romans, to actually assimilate into Roman culture, and fight for it when need be.

As a quick aside, what many do not realize is that in the waining days of the empire it wasn't the Romans versus the barbarians. Rather, it was other barbarians fighting other barbarians.  I have already covered this in a previous post, but Rome had long since lost the ability to field armies that were loyal to Rome itself, rather than fighting for Rome because of money.  Moreover, there were many 'barbarians' who fought valiantly for Rome, like Stilicho.  But their ability was never rewarded, rather they were regarded with suspicion because they weren't true Romans.  What would have happened to the Roman empire if Stilicho had not been executed but rather had become an emperor himself?  The empire might have continued, but I digress.

This is where the conservatives are absolutely right to be concerned with immigration as it stands today.  Because ultimately it is culture that matters. If we do not encourage cultural assimilation, by expecting certain standards of conduct and opening the halls of power to newcomers, then we remove any reason for individuals to trying become invested in the American experiment.  The US is an incredibly dynamic culture that can handle a degree of instability that would break down other societies.  But there are points where even the most flexible metal will break.  I am all for more immigrants coming into this country, I personally don't care if the America of the future is white or not because, once again, its culture that is paramount.

This means we have to ask hard questions, such as:

Does offering ballots in other languages actually decrease the likelihood of assimilation? Yes. It does.

Does turning a blind eye to illegal immigration hurt national culture? Yes, we can see the civil strife it is causing right now.

Do our current immigration laws contribute to this problem? Yes, they are far too byzantine and expensive; having the unintended consequence of alienating potential productive citizens. Both because it may force those who wish to come to America to come illegal, but then hide in fear of deportation which assures they will have difficulty assimilating. And further alienating those who did come here legally when they see our inaction towards enforcing our laws.  How can a person feel loyalty towards a nation that extracted tens of thousands of dollars from them, along with years of their life, but not expect the same of others?

The list goes on. But the social strife being created extends past Hispanic and and on Hispanic lines. Just look at the animosity that some northern states hold for the southwestern states that are taking matters into their own hands because the Federal government fails to address the issue.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pray that you never have to have a trial by jury.

I want to see the little man fly!
I was working out in the gym today when I saw something that caused me to shake my head in disgust.  Up on the televisions in the gym the station was on CNN.  The focus on the news station was the Zimmerman trial, specifically it was showing a reenactment of the event.  Not a 90 Min's or lifetime event style reenactment, where individuals actually enact the events, but I believe a walk through with an individual.  I couldn't tell if this person was sympathetic towards Zimmerman or one of the many individuals calling for is blood. I didn't care really, as I have given almost no attention to this case, and I actually consider it a point of pride (more on why later).  I was left wondering why CNN was even bothering doing this kind of coverage, outside of the obvious ratings ploy, because regardless of how impartial CNN tries to be they will invariably stock the already burning fires of passion that surround this case.

At this point I do not think Zimmerman is going to get a fair trail.  Not because the jury or the state is out to get the man, but simply because I don't see how we can keep the maelstrom that surrounds this event from the jurors.  Even sequestering the jurors away from society wouldn't be enough considering the extensive amount of coverage and societal attention this case is receiving.  And it is this sort of events that can expose the potential weakness of being tried by a jury.  I say that, because, I was a juror once, on a pretty serious attempted murder case where someone was shot, and I can tell you that after my experience I would never want to stand up and plead my innocence before a jury.  (And lets not confuse the principal of innocent before proven guilty with the reality of the situation.  A whole host of things can affect your perception of innocence or guilt, and this 24/7 media attention on Zimmerman doesn't help him because out there on same nationally syndicated show some shrew or rat faced talking head will be denounce him to God above in front of millions of Americans.)

It was my experience with a real trial, with real consequences for other human beings, that makes me turn away whenever there is any expose or 'news' story like the one I saw above.  There are so many things missing from a reenactment that are necessary, and will probably only distort what actually happened.  Out of all the things that is distorted there is nothing more important than this one fact.  No matter how hard these reporters or sideline sleuths try they will never get into the state of mind of either Zimmerman or Trayvon at that particular place and time. And that isn't even the most terrifying thing of all.

You see the concept of trial by jury means that we are supposed to be tried by our peers, individuals who think like us and are most likely going to have our world views.  This is supposed to help with the fact that no one can really know Zimmerman state of mind or intentions that night. If someone thinks like you, then they are more likely going to arrive at that particular truth.  However, while this sounds great on paper its almost never the case in reality.  America is too diverse a nation, and always has been. The risk is very high will could end up on a jury with someone who has declared you guilty from the onset of the trial.  This isn't speculation, I've actually seen this.

In the trial I sat on the charges were attempted murder in the first degree, or premeditated murder.  Now after listening to all the evidence I had concluded that there was too much reasonable doubt, long story short they could never tie the fire arm to either the assailant or the victim and there was some evidence that the confrontation was initiated by the victim. However, despite my opinions, and that of a good portion of the jurors, there was one man that had decided that he was guilty of attempted murder in the first degree.  Rehashing the evidence didn't convince him, nor did reading the law.  He kept saying 'my gut tells me he is guilty.'  Fortunately for the young man there was a workaround and he wasn't convicted of attempted murder in the first degree; we did convict him for attempted murder in the second degree as there was no doubt he tried to shoot a guy in the back.

And that isn't even the biggest reason why I would be afraid of trial by jury. Even in the event that I would be placed with jurors that were withing my standard deviation for intelligence, same age, and cultural mindset I would be very nervous.  Because the kind of justice you will receive depends heavily on the judge and prosecutors that you have.

Even though prosecutors are supposed to be dispensers of justice, there is no promises that you will not end up being a victim of political ambition.  Remember the Duke Lacrosse fiasco?  A few young men were thrown into the public eye to be defamed and humiliated all for the sake of political ambition. Legal protocol was usurped, all for the good of public opinion.  In the end justice was served, sort of; but this highlights the incredible danger you face.  Woe be it if you ever find yourself in the public eye for a 'hate crime' because you will never receive a fair trial.   And then we get to the judges.

The kind of justice you will receive rests most heavily on the judge that you have.  There is no case that illustrates this more clearly than the one where a man was convicted to seven years in prison, despite having no criminal record, for having a firearm in his trunk.  The judge in this case actively kept the jury in the dark about certain laws that could of exonerated the young man, despite repeated requests by the jury for clarification on exemption laws. This means that if you are so unlucky to find a judge that has an axe to grind, and it was apparent in this case that the judge did have one, you could find yourself being denied the justice that judges are sworn to uphold.

That is perhaps the most frightening thing of all. The very fact the you could find yourself denied justice simply because a judge wishes it. I haven't even gotten to talk about jury nullification, which would be the wet dream of every anti-drug war activist in America; and has been used to nullify convictions on slavery on prohibition.  It was upheld by the Supreme Court as a right of the juror, but in the same breadth the court made it clear that judges do not have to make jurors aware of jury nullification if they did not feel the need too.  

It is for these reason that I hope I never have to end up in front of jury.  Because with everything that is stacked against you the words 'Innocent before proven Guilty' really do ring hollow.  Considering how obese and unhealthy Americans are; if you ever find yourself in a trial, maybe take your chances with trial by combat. It worked for Tyrion.

A little funny this morning

A little lightheartedness to start your day.  Why else would you go to college?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Underpaid and underemployed.

That's the title of a New York Times article via msnbc today.  A lot of reasons are thrown up for this; greedy corporations sending jobs overseas and not paying their workers enough is the leading cause. But that ignores how the government screws with the economy, and ultimately, creates the poverty that they are wishing to address.

Yes globalization has created a more competitive environment and businesses have sent jobs overseas, though this is somewhat being abated due to the adage old adage 'you get what you pay for'.  However, few individuals ask this question.  What came first?  Depressed wages because of jobs overseas to manufacture cheap goods or Depressed wages causing  demand for incredibly cheap goods forcing jobs overseas?  You could argue either way, but I'd contend that government regulation and intervention has exacerbated the problem, because, ultimately its the standard of living you enjoy and not the nominal amount that you are paid that determines prosperity.

I mean who is better off, a person who say their wages decreased by 3% over 5 years but saw prices fall by 5%, or the person who saw their wages increase by 3% and saw a 5% increase in the cost of goods?  Obviously the first person is better off.   But a variety of government policies, easy money, deficit spending, and fostering an education bubble, have created a drag on our economy.
"Garland Miller, 28, who has degrees in finance and accounting from the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University, had hoped to land a job at a big accounting firm, and to have been able to buy a home by now. Instead he finds himself working as the lead server at a steakhouse. But he has not given up on trying to move into the field that he prepared himself for: This month, he attended a jobs fair in Duluth, a suburb of Atlanta, organized by the University of Georgia for its alumni."
Here is a person, who according to conventional wisdom, should not have any trouble finding work.  But he is, and there are tens of thousands, if not millions more like him, who have spent a lot of time any money and are not find the jobs that they were promised, and foolishly as we have now learned, expected.  That fact is, even if you get a degree that is supposed to be useful there are no guarantees because our economic condition is so bad.

I for example, I have a friend who majored in electrical engineering, definitely not socioeconomic effects of patriarchy on women in the Bantu tribe studies, but still works as a tech and not as an engineer.  Yes, he will move up to be an engineer one day, but he graduated from University almost four years ago and it took him two years to even find this tech position.  When you have individuals who have degrees, like technology, in what are supposed to be high demand industries having trouble finding work, in technological center no less, you have problems.  But what are causing them? 

Here is a quick bullet list.

  • Boomers aren't retiring.
  • Growth of non-productive sectors in private industry i.e HR
  • Companies that seek to be rent seekers rather than producers
  • Government bodies throwing good money towards bad enterprises i.e Solyndra or  the bank bailouts
  • Governments throwing money they don't have towards bad enterprises
  • Governments throwing money at social problems that money doesn't fix
  • Governments promising more social programs that they can't pay for
  • Governments inflating the currency to service the debt decreasing your purchasing power
All of these things combine to slow economic growth, which in turn causes an increasing array of regulation, rent seeking, and government programs.  It's like a Chinese finger trap, the worse things get the more we do the very things that are causing our problems. Unfortunately most news articles will not say as much, they may believe in the contrary, but these things are happening

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Broken centerfuge

The EU is beginning to fray politically. The supra-political union could maintain itself while times were good, but now that times are tough each nation is beginning to look out for its own interest.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The most important law Western Civilization hadn't heard about.

It's popular to think that what felled the Roman empire was a massive influx of barbarians, who battered and raped their way through the empire until it finally gave up the ghost.  But this wouldn't be an entirely accurate reason why the empire eventually crumbled.  True, the invasion of the Attila the Hun greatly wounded  an ailing empire, and Odoacer deposed the last Roman emperor, thus ending the western line officially, but the fact is that the empire was already breathing its death rattle at this point.  Civilizations and nations don't usually end suddenly, especialy nations as large and powerful as Rome. They usually limp along long after a mortal blow has been struck. In truth, after the crisis of the 3rd century, the empire was already terminal.  It continued on, but it was no longer the entity that it once was. When Emperor Diocletian established the Tetrarchy, it was an effort to try and make the empire more manageable, essentially splitting them up into separate entities (Imagine the US being split up into seperate administrative districts of Pacifica, New England, Dominion, Midwest, and Texas). The Roman empire had ceased to exist as a single entity, it was now an organization of seperate but cooperative empires, nominally it was one empire, but in practice many.  The Roman empire was dead, only the still breathing corpse remained; it simply took a final push from outsiders to do her in.

I say this because Rome throughout history had been beset, bested by, and occasionally sacked by barbaric tribes, such as the celts and gauls, and earlier in their history by the Etruscans and Samnites.  Each time the eternal city came back from defeat and soldiered on, eventually reigning victorious and subjugating their attackers.  However, what had changed in the millenia was that Rome was no longer a vibrant society; an age old scourge that had beset societies throughout the ages consumed it from within; much like a cancer attacking a persons immune system or termites eating away at a wooden pillar. This cancer was bureaucracy.  The empire had always been large, had always had to deal with an occasional uprising, had always been beset by the very problems that appeared to eventually fell it, but the empires ability to deal with these problems effectively and quickly had changed, not the problems themselves.

Where once defense of a region was left to the proconsul/propraetor (governor) of the province and the legionaries (Roman citizen soldiers) and auxiliaries (Non-citizen residents of the empire looking to obtain citizenship) under his command, occasionally with some help from Rome herself in the event of a major crisis.  Over the centuries a large bureaucratic organization had sprung up hamstringing the governors ability to govern, and stealing away resources from more productive endeavour.

This bureaucracy had been implemented by the first emperors themselves, to help them assist governance of the empire, and had gradually been expanded as emperors attempted to avoid any extremely popular governor or general from laying claim to the imperial seat.  Over the centuries successive coups and civil wars lead the emperor to believe that he needed to exert more direct authority over the empire rather than less (though some Emperors such as Hadrian bucked that trend).  Now this is all conjecture, as all hypothesises of what caused Rome to fall are, but I use this example to state my case.

In 212 AD the emperor Caracalla issued an edict that fundamentally changed the empire. The edict was the Constitutio Antoniniana, which declared every freeborn person residing in the empire a Roman citizen with all the rights and responsibilities that it contained.  This was a momentous occasion that one, symbolizes how bureaucratic the empire had become, and two, fundamentally changed its social system, and three, laid the seeds for the crises that would beset the empire in the next two centuries.

The reason Caracalla passed the new law was simple, he wished to increase the taxable base of his empire.  The Roman empire was very complex and its taxation system equally so, but to summarize it: outside of a census tax and polling tax, each administered by a puppet king or provincial governor, non-Roman citizens were exempt from direct taxation by the empire, i.e Roman tax collectors representing the city of Rome and not the provincial governors who then passed the tax on after collection some of the revenue for their administrations.  Roman citizens were subject to direct taxes from the Empire, but were spared the census tax and polling tax.
By passing the law, and making every person in the empire a citizen, he further strengthened an already large bureaucracy. But more importantly, it was why he did so, it was because the tax was to feed the behemoth itself.  The bureaucracy had grown so large that the empire was having difficulty funding it with the revenue sources it had at its disposal.  The emperor issued this edict, hoping that this move would solve the frequent funding problems that beset the empire during this time; I should also note that currency debasement was going on cocurrently as well.  However, this short term solution had dire long term ramifications.

Firstly, it grew the very bureaucracy that was slowly killing the empire.  This bureaucracy had gradually, over the centuries, shifted power of action away from the governors of the provinces and more towards the emperor, making the empire as a whole much more vulnerable to incompetence or corruption of the emperor and his aids.  Corruption gradually became a widespread problem that left the organization that ran the empire unable to do its very job.

Secondly the edict continued the empires economic stagnation. Adding addition tax burdens to an ever strained productive middle class straing them even further, and as the middle class goes so goes society.  When the middle class thrives and is productive society grows. When the middle class is squeezed and disappears a society stagnates.  This edict created an additional massive tax burden, which the emperor made even more burdensome by raising the tax rates on the populace, and coupled with an ever debasing currency, made them unable to pay their dues to the state. This began the process of fuedalization of society because as the ability of the common man to pay his debts decreased the likelihood of seeking a wealthy benefactor rose.  By the end of the empire the poor plebians had pledge themselves to the wealthy land owners, who had the power and ability to persuade or outright ignore imperial tax edicts, becoming serfs on land that they once had owned and worked for themselves.

Thirdly the new universal citizenship that every person in the empire enjoyed had a major unforeseen consequence on Romes military ability.  The legions of Rome had always been the elite force of the military, not the backbone that we imagine them to be simpy because of numbers.  Open to citizens of the empire only, it was a lucrative prospect despite the lengthy mandatory service of 25 years. The average lifespan of a legionnaire was greater than that of an average citizen.  The pay was very good, and to top it off, retiring legionaries received generous grants of lands in the outer territories. The empire created colonies where retired legionaries would settle, which helped maintain peace and stability in the region, and more importantly for the legionnaire, created an area where they were members of the wealthy landed class.  But as I stated, the legion wasn't the backbone of the miliary.  Though the legions were numerous there were far too few of them to patrol all of the empire alone.  That was the purpose of the auxiliary, which also served a societal reason for existing along with a military purpose.

During the principate and up to the middle of the 3rd century the auxiliary made up 3/5 of the Roman military forces.  The pack mules and specialized soldiers of the military; a good analogy would be to think of the legions as construction engineers and the auxiliaries as the field crews.  But most importantly, the auxiliary was comprised of non-citizens of the empire, and the auxiliary units were often stationed away from homeland of the soldiers who had enlisted.  This helped prevent rebellions, by removing the armed subjects from their native lands, and increased integration amongst the auxiliaries into Roman societs as the reward for 25 years of auxiliary service was citizenship in the empire.

It may be difficult to understand how lucrative a prospect this was, but citizens enjoyed special economic rights and privilages over other subjects.  A person could become rich and successful merely as a subjuct, but it was far easier to become rich when one was a citizen. Citizenship could be awarded by the emperor to upstanding subjects or foreigners who greatly helped the empire, but the most common way to earn it was through military service.  As I have mentioned before, the Romans were brutally effective in subjugating a population with an iron fist.  On the flip side, they created many opportunities for the excellent or ambitious peregrini (foreigners under Roman control) to become standing members of society.  Citizenship in the empire opened doors, it allowed for free travel throughout the empire, and the possibility to hold positions of power. The ability to travel freely was especially a big deal.  This is still true today, as I know individuals that have acquired American citizenship simply because it offers greater ability to travel into other countries.  However, the Constitutio Antoniniana removed a major incentive for members of the empire to enlist into the auxiliary and from it a major source of military manpower.

This immediately created a man shortage problem.  The legions alone were not enough to patrol the boundaries of the frontier lands, maintain peace in the inner empire, and build and maintain the vast roadworks that facilitated trade.  This self inflicted crisis forced later emperors to seek out barbarian auxiliaries, though a better word would be mercenaries.  Essentially the empire had put itself in a position where it was unable to raise its own army, it had to pay for protection.

And this is where it all comes together. The edict removed any real reason for non-citizens to sacrifice for the empire, since everyone was a citizen now, why would they join the auxiliaries?  Men still joined the legions, but the legions were expensive to maintain relative to the auxiliary units, further straining the empire that was already spending every coin it had on its massive bureaucracy.

And as the bureaucracy grew, so did the corruption that comes with large organizations that answer to few individuals.  It siphoned resources from the middle class, and actively forced out those who showed great ability for fear of losing their little fiefdoms.  In the end those with ability, or simply the resources, stuck to their own fortunes and ignored the empire, carving out little fiefdoms of their own.  When the west finally fell in 476 AD, the empire had long been dead, the usurping Germanic leader simply decided he did not want to play along with the farce any more.

This is something we ourselves need to think about. Massive influx of migrants, economic troubles, even incompetent leaders are all survivable.  Rome had its fair share over the millenia but survived them all. It was only when the bureaucracy became so large that it cannibalized everything productive and valuable that the empire finally succumbed.  That is the threat that America faces today.  We have dozens of agencies and and departments that need not exist each one vying for money and influence, and each one looking out for its own interest.

 It will not be the migrants, nor economic troubles, nor even a foreign power that will lay us low.  It will be the very departments and programs that we create to help us rule our nation because the day is coming when we cannot even pretend to pay for our government as it exists now. And when that day comes, if we haven't fundamentally altered how the nation thinks, then we will see our own Constitutio Antoninana moment.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Forward: Who fears the Euro crisis

Interesting chart forwarded to me about the Euro crisis and which parties have what kind of fears on the possible fall out that affects their interests.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Health Police

The idiocy in New York and its health police continues.  Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxly all imagined worlds were order and stability were the impetus of a totalitarian society.  But could anyone ever have conceived that it would be 'health' not 'order' that was the driving force for the usurpation of our liberties?  In the end it doesn't matter, save that fighting this brand of totalitarianism will be harder than fighting the goose stepping variety.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive... those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S Lewis

The SS Europa

Another article from STRATFOR.  This one writing about Spain's imminent, at the time, bailout.  One thing that separates Greece from Spain, is that the Spanish economy is much larger than Greece by almost a factor of 5.  This means that while Greece could effectively be ousted from the EU and the Euro zone, though high level EU politicians and bureaucrats want to avoid the possible cascade effect of their removal, Spain cannot. Given enough time, and done in the right way, and it is conceivable that the EU, as a political entity, and the Euro, as a currency, could survive; the same cannot be said for Spain. It is too large a nation and too into influential to be swept away.

Moreover, if Spain goes under, and is forced out or leaves, then it is a given that Italy would soon follow and France would be asking some hard questions.  If a hierarchy of the EU could be devised, it would have Germany at the top both politically and economically.  The Scandinavian north would be at the next tier economically with France taking the political rung.  Great Britain is in an interesting position considering it is one of the wealthier, and more militarily powerful nations, but their ability to sway the EU isn't as great as it could be.

This is in no small part Britain's historic perchance for going its on way, keeping the pound and aligning itself more closely with the United States for example.  Frankly, when the EU collapse, Great Britain probably has the most to benefit from it.  It is a large economy and as one of the United States closest partners in Europe it gives it a unique position to act as a intermediary between the US and other European nations.  But back to Spain.

Spain is increasingly becoming a dead weight on the EU. And the political leadership of Germany has even try to attach any stipulations to their bailout.  But no one summarizes the EUs predicament than Nigel Farage via Save Capitalism.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Which President Makes it Rain the most?

Can you make it rain like a
Not to long ago I did a post about how the surplus was a fabrication.  This post grew out of this when, while I was constructing the charts I wanted to make my point about the president who actually spent the most I realized that it was for too many charts for a single post.  I decided to segue into post about that previous post.  Well days later I finally have gotten the time to this post.

The question is an interesting one, though there really are only two runners.  Looking at this chart it is pretty obvious who has spent the most during their time as president.

According to this chart, showing the yearly deficit accrued by each president in each year of their presidency, Obama destroys the competition having only occupied the presidency for three years.  However, as I have stated in earlier, measuring deficits alone doesn't show the whole picture.  President Clinton appears to have run surpluses the last four years of his presidency.  But this chart shows the sometimes drastic difference between the two.

This chart compares the total deficit accrued under each presidency, by year they were responsible for the federal budget.  The first President Bush has numbers pretty close together, the deficits he ran each year are equally reflected in the debt added to nations balance sheet.  We see a rather large discrepancy under President Clinton, remember this is when our federal government was raiding our social security surplus and writing I.O.Us.  Republicans would claim it was corruption and dishonesty by a democratic president, yet they cannot escape culpability considering they controlled congress.  Remember fellow citizens, both parties have sold you out loan sharks, never ever forget that. 

 Interestingly enough we see that both Obama and Bush saw rather large increases in the federal debt, Bush would appear to be more 'hidden'.  This would appear to make the second President Bush the most spendthrift president cumulatively in the last 20 years.  This chart shows that President Bush ran the largest increase in our debt in 2007, before the crisis had officially been acknowledge by our government.

Now you will probably ask why President Obama and Bush share a year? The reason is that while Bush was responsible for the 2009 Budget, Obama also passed his economic stimulus plan outside of the federal budget.  This means that we must allocate the share of the debt for 2009.

As we can see from this chart, when we allocate the added deficit spending by Obama, that only 41% of the added debt in 2009 falls in his court. And though Obama probably won't beat Bush for the largest increase to the national debt, though the coming second wave in our global crisis might change that, but he has amassed 77% of the debt Bush did in only 3 years as president.  If things continue as they are then Obama will eventually surpass Bush as the president who has increased our national debt the most.

Depending on how you want to skew the research the president who makes it rain the most could either be Obama, for most likely to be the spending champ, or Bush, current reigning champ. But in the end it doesn't matter which man ultimately wins the crown, the end result is a poor one for us.  Debts like this cannot be continued, as the debt acts like an anchor on our economy.

Putin in Hot Water

Things are increasingly getting more difficult for Putin.  Part of this has to do with people growing tired of living under a strong man, and part of it has to do with the generally poor conditions of the global economy.  Whether or not Putin is ousted is unforeseen, and I personally do not expect it to happen.  But do expect to see a more aggressive Russia in the geopolitical sphere.  Directing internal unrest to an external source is an age old tactic.

Monday, June 11, 2012

40% drop in American wealth

The headline of a Forbes Op/Ed piece.  American households have been hit hard during recent years, however, it isn't that the recession caused a 40% reduction in wealth. What must be stressed is the bubble is what caused the destruction of wealth.  The increased values we saw prior to the bubble popping were largely illusory, that explains part of the reduction of wealth. As most Americans largest asset is their homes. But what about money that wasn't invested into residential real estate?

Well on of the nasty effects of bubbles is that they are rarely self contained, and in instances where the government becomes heavily involved, it can cause a major spill over effect. Businesses that ordinarily were not involve in real estate got involved.  And even if a business wasn't involved with real estate there was a good chance it suffered a seven degrees of Kevin Bacon separation.  Industries like insurance, banking, and construction are obvious. But what about food services? A lot of constructing workers eat out while on the job site. Or advertising agencies? Don't forget shipping companies that would haul those materials. The list goes on. Everything is interconnected in a vast web that is too complex and interconnected to accurately see how each piece effects the other, its one of the reasons why I rejected Keynesian economics.
What this means though is that while we often call the bubble a real estate is in fact an economic bubble. Everything was ballooned out of proportion. Yes there were some sound investments to be made during this period, however, it would have been very difficult to separate the money pits from the sound investments.  What this means is that much of the money that was invested to build net worth was vaporized on contact.  The moment that money left the bank account it no longer existed because it was thrown after a bad investment.  The 40% drop we are seeing now is only the after affect, like the thunderclap after a lightening strike.

Dinosaurs fear change

Almost 600 years ago the printing
press revolutionized information.
Article by Ars Technica about the intransigence from some members of academia and technology. Ostensibly they fear the disconnect in learning that could be caused from teaching someone over the digital nether versus face to face interaction.  But as many of us have said, such as the Captain, the real fear is obsolescence.  Much like the monks that transcribed literary works after the invention of the printing press, laborers after the industrial revolution, and big journalism after the invention of the journalist blogger; they fear the diffusing of power that changing technology brings.

With the advent of online teaching, and the pioneering souls who push it, education is continuing to open up to the masses.  Where once educational intuitions were the gateway to higher valuable knowledge, and the respect and prestige that comes with it, they now are find themselves manning the ramparts and preparing for a siege because online education is exposing a truth long kept hiding. Most higher institutions are indistinguishable from each other in terms of quality education.

This statement is still blasphemous today, and uttering such a thing unthinkable even a decade a go. But outside the protests of academics, rationalisations of those, like myself, who spent $ 30k a year on 'education' and degree of dubious value, and the elders among us who remember the days when colleges delivered what they promised; we know, or suspect this to be true.  Is there any quantifiable information out there that really tells us that Harvard is better than Yale, or even better than a state school?  There is not.  And while there is a major advantage in regards the legacy network that one receives from an Ivy league school; really deserve the stature they hold in American society?

'But Cogitans', they might say, 'those schools became prestigious for a reason.  World leaders and major business men have graduated from these institutions.  People didn't wake up and make those schools as prestigious as they are now arbitrarily.'  And they would be right. However, just because an institution, person, or place was elite in the past doesn't make them so now.  Look at Detroit, GM, or California.  All places, cities, or companies that were once great, once excelled, that rested upon their laurels and proclaimed their greatness all while they bleed. These places are but shadows of what they once were, and whose to say that colleges are any different?

We cannot say with confidence or certainty that these places are head and shoulders above any other intuition because we have no way of measuring it.  Those that graduate who are successful could just have easily succeeded if they had gone to state university base on innate ability alone. Take drive and intelligent people and put them in third world conditions and they will still find a way to make it. That is the truth that many presidents of many universities fear, whether or not they can articulate it is another matter.  These smart and driven individuals will soon realize that as long as they can get the information they will be able to develop the skills they need. Finance, Economics, and the Sciences are the same wherever you go.  It's not like the Ivy league teaches you some secret formula or new economic model not privy to anyone else.  It is, quite literally, all the same material.

Online education offers a doorway to do for education that no government program ever could.  Make it affordable and accessible to everyone.  The Universities fear because their winter is coming, but you should rejoice, because it means your spring may yet arrive.

Is Greece really (Western) European?

A good article by Robert Kaplan about Greece and its cultural place in Europe.  While many of the core tenants of western civilization were thought up and expressed in ancient Greece that was many thousands of years ago.  Greece today is not the Greece that once was in terms of drive, place in the world, or cultural mindset.  Just because a nation or group of people were one way in the past does not necessarily mean they will remain the same in the future. 

It's something I've wanted to write about in my blog because I feel that the west is changing. Europe and the United States, or even the anglosphere, or increasingly going in different directions culturally.  Just look at the differences between the US and Europe when it comes to religion, patriotism, and outlook on the world. Some say Western Civilization is dying, and while that may be the case, it is also changing.  I will expand on this later when I have time, but provided that progressives doesn't gut America, then western ideals can still live on.  Theoretically Europe (Western Europe specifically) could be saved, there are still many hardworking and driving Europeans with a sense of history and cultural pride; but I don't know.  I don't live in Europe, and everything that I have seen, granted my perception is heavily influenced by my American cultural mindset, says that Europe is dying a slow death.  More on that this idea later.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Can the US not win insurgency wars?

This game...
STRATFOR once again has their free weekly geopolitical article about the end of scalability and counterinsurgency force.  It reminds me of a blog post that Vox did not too long ago about why the US can't win wars. I wrote a response but it was hurried I do not think I did a great job conveying what I wanted to convey so I will revisit the topic here on my own blog.

One thing that George Friedman points out about the US is that while we are excellent at fighting wars, both of limited and vast scope, we struggle immensely with counter insurgency.  This ties into what Vox wrote about, though it should be mentioned we have won many wars in the latter have of the 20th and 21st century.  We defeated Saddam twice, out maneuvered the Soviet Union, unseated communists in Grenada, and bent the will of Serbia.  Many of these actions are not considered wars, but the fact is that the United State utilized force to achieve an end.  And that is all that war is, whether you fight for freedom, gold, land, oil, or power, you (the nation) are simply using violence to obtain that end.

The US does do a very poor job at counter insurgency, but most nations track records are hardly any better. It is difficult to win, primarily, as George Friedman states, you are often fighting a foe who is far more motivated than you and is also a part of the native population.  While many governments, such as Mexico, cannot defeat their insurgents, the drug lords, due to political corruption, and others, such as Mali, cannot win due to a lack of equipment, there are still other nations, such as Afghanistan, where the fighting force holds a mechanical advantage, due to US aid, but the rank and file does not have the same conviction.

The US doesn't suffer from most of these problems.  Our military is highly trained, motivated, and well equipped.  Corruption isn't a huge issue in our military, in fact it is the last government institution that many Americans still respect, but the US does have an issue.  And that is a national one, force of will.  The United States, for all its faults, actively tries to be a benevolent force and influence for the most part. One, that while it wants hegemony, so far seems to eschew empire.
Contrast this with Rome.  Rome initially was very similar to the US in terms of foreign policy. During its republican, and for some during its imperial, years many lands that are now shown in maps as part of the empire were in fact lands and kingdoms that were largely internally independent.  These lands enjoyed a degree of independence and self determination that varied.  Some lands governed themselves entirely but often sided with Rome for a variety of reasons, think of Japan or Germany, others largely governed themselves but saw their international policy dictated to them, think of Puerto Rico, and still others were integral parts of the empire, like ours states today.  However as time went on this changed.
 As the imperial years went on more territory was formally incorporated into the empire.  This did cause some rebel and insurgent movements.  But considering that the empire lasted for five years in the west, and almost a thousands years if you include the east, you can conclude they were largely effective at putting insurgencies down and conquering other nations?  What made Rome so effective where the US struggles? Brutality, use and simple.

The Romans had no compunction in conquering nations.  By conquering I mean culling and displacing entire populations selling of the survivors that resisted into slavery.  Couple this with the tremendous economic advantages that could be acquired by siding with Rome and it made it very difficult to side with rebel forces.  There was no hand wringing when it came to this.  Family members of suspected fighters could possibly find themselves enslaved, and villages that resisted completely annihilated.  Carthage, a rival to Rome at one point, was completely leveled to the ground.  The men slaughtered with the women and children being flung across the corners of the empire as slaves.  For good measure the Romans sowed the land with salt, a symbolic gesture meaning that nothing fertile would ever grow here again.  The US has done things like this in the past, particularly when it came to settling the west. But it was and is horribly bloody and these actions often run against the grain of values, especially when it comes to the value of human life, that democratic nations posses.

This, the system of values of the US possesses, shows in the unwillingness of the US to actively conquer other nations.  The US does invade and occupy, but it doesn't conquer. There is a difference between the two. For the most part the US doesn't need to do so to achieve its ends. The US uses the time during its occupation to build political and economic networks that it can use later.  This isn't unusual, as you can conquer a nation and do this as well, but once you leave a nation that merely has been occupied the nation will largely do whats in its own best interest.  Look at Iraq, we have occupied them for nearly a decade, built a new military dependent on our surplus equipment, and established a new political system. By all accounts you would think that Iraq was a satellite of the US save for the fact that as we have pulled out the nation moves closer and closer to Iran.

A conquered nation would never do this, or it would take a large amount of external pressure for it to do so.  Case and point look at Japan.  We conquered Japan, perhaps the nation in the 20th century that the US truly conquered. But look at what we did. We slowly strangled Japan economically. We cut off their oil supplies from the East Indies and methodically destroyed their infrastructure.  We firebombed Tokyo, killing more civilians than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. After dropping atomic hellfire on the people of Japan we demanded unconditional capitulation, and threatened to wipe their nation off of the map if they didn't.  The Japanese were convinced that we were prepared to utterly destroy their civilization, and if we had possessed any more nuclear weaponry, we might have continued to bombard them.  We were prepared to destroy them, and more importantly, we were also willing to bleed.

It isn't talked about outside of historical circles, but the US was preparing for an invasion of Japan.  If the US had not invented or used atomic weaponry it would have been the one of the largest military operations to date. It would have been very bloody. Millions of Japanese would have died. And the median estimate would have put the death toll for Americans around one hundred to three hundred thousand.  That is a steep price to pay. One that we would not pay now, nor would most nations as well.And that is the final crux of it. To conquer a nation, to win a war where the end goal is to completely mold and shape a nation how you desire to shape it, requires the willingness to spill blood to the extreme.

The US doesn't desire to conquer as our geographic goals have already been meet and politically it would be distasteful.  I don't say that our unwillingness to do so is a bad thing.  True empire holds little allure to me, especially considering the terrible human toll that is required.  Our recent wars could have been very limited. The US could simply have concerned itself with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and we could have simply killed Saddam and threatened the new leaders if preventing development of WMDs were simply our goal.  But the US took these events, some out of circumstance and some out of choice, to try and mold these nations like the US molded Japan, Germany, and many others.  The US was doomed to failure because without the willingness to conquer and since there were no other external influences, such as the Soviet Union, that would have deterred domestic rebellion or fostered an equally committed counterinsurgency amongst the local populace, there is no chance of us outlasting an insurgency in their homeland.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.