Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Truly don't Understand

I used to think that America's biggest problems came in the political arena.

Perhaps that was incorrect.  I have been avoiding the news for quite a time now, because it was just so disturbing and disquieting.  The political events in this country just seem beyond control, and I was just not ready to even consider the reports of every day events.  After all...the news is always bad.  No one ever makes money reporting good news.

But...I cannot understand how Americans have allowed their lives to deteriorate to the degree that nightly news reports suggest is becoming the norm.

Child molestation is apparently now being "punished" by probation or less than one year sentences.  There was a time when such a crime would require the death penalty with approbation from all.  Those with criminal records that show a consistent lack of honor for a civil life when suffering invited injury or death by law enforcement are eulogized by demonstrators, some of the most vocal of which are clearly interested more in defying law of any sort rather than any individual injustice.

Colleges refuse to allow movies or discussions about abortion criticisms, but refuse to allow the showing of a movie documenting "honor" killings by Muslims and other domestic violence practiced by Muslim extremists.  Charter Schools in NY that provide true opportunity to disadvantaged students are closed by the NYC Mayor arguably elected by that same electorate.

HUD is a vehicle to bring the wrath of the Federal Government on property owners who operate in good faith on the basis of just one complaint, with absolutely no showing of a balanced view of counter claims, thereby threatening fiscal disaster to individuals and HOAs across the country.

Ever try to get the government's help on anything?  Unless you claimed minority status, did you ever get any satisfaction?  The odds are great that you would answer "no."  Why is that?  We live with the belief that the government exists to serve us, right?  But it turns out that our belief is an illusion.  Our government's actions would appear to prove that it serves their own officials, both elected and appointed, and those who can pay them (with votes or money...or both).  So we are being governed by a dictatorship by committee...and we are powerless to defend ourselves.

I have this feeling that when I die, it will be by natural causes...whether that is true, or really by government action or neglect I do not know, but I know what I suspect...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

America is becoming a "Sad" Country

America has been many things over the years: desperate, chancy, energetic, powerful, original, and dangerous, among many other labels.  But "Sad" wasn't one of them...until now.  America has become a very "sad" country.

Americans were always known for their energy, their independence, their pride and...yes...even for their foolishness.  But they were never sad.  They were optimistic. Their soul spoke of survival, overcoming and moving forward.

But Americans now more and more are dependent...mostly on government, but also on their parents and "others," expecting "someone else" to take care of them, expecting "someone else" to suffer the consequences rather than themselves.  Our leaders apologize to other nations for taking care of them in their needy times, show deference to those who treat their own citizens as second class beings and other nations as being beneath them.  Such is the state of our country...and it's leaders.

America's citizens allow it's leaders to spend beyond the country's means, not holding them accountable.  America's citizens allow their children to be burdened by this debt that was created to "give" our current populace a "free" lunch.

Some of us...not enough...feel guilty, even though we have not only not approved of these actions, but have spoken out and voted against them.  We feel sad.  We are embarrassed.

Unfortunately, the majority of American citizens apparently are not embarrassed, sad, or sorry.  They party on, on their children's dime.  How sad.  Long ago, we would have termed such actions and attitude as criminal.  But...laws, morals are now not mandates, but "suggestions" and right and wrong are decided by a minority vote, lest someone's feelings are hurt.

The last days of the Roman Empire seem glorious in comparison.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is America important to it's Citizens anymore?

History can tell us a lot.  But most of the time we look at and read history as a story about "others."  And, of course, it is.  But...they were human beings, as are we.  They didn't have the technological advances that we enjoy, but they were advances far beyond those who went before.   The Greeks did amazing things and discovered much.  The Romans went even further, as life became a bit more complicated, but showed what could be done with public utilities and expanding governance.

One wonders how future civilizations will look upon America.  My suspicion is that we will fade nicely into the amalgam of civilizations that rose on achievement and declined on mediocrity.

Do you wish to argue the point?  Fine.  Argue away.

This country rose above all others on the face of the world at its time because it was a meritocracy.  For many reasons, there was no consideration for those not able to perform or survive; rewards for those who survived were just that...survival.  And as time went on, added to that were riches and power.  The rule was: perform or die.  Those unlucky or not able died; they did not procreate.  Only the genes of those who were survivors duplicated.  And the nation prospered.  Just as the Greeks and the Romans prospered.

But they...and America...over time changed.  Care was given to those who did not perform.  Lives were saved who otherwise would have perished.  And many of these people became a drain on the resources of society.  And even more damaging, their attitudes and needs became direction for the nation.  Attitudes were changed, resources were re-allocated.  Those who achieved were disrespected and became the accused.  Achievement was discounted...and no longer encouraged.  There were no longer to be any winners or losers.

Together with a declining responsiveness of government to the individual, people came to realize the futility of "trying" and came to accept the idea of "entitlement," without the slightest sign of embarrassment or guilt at receiving a living that was not earned.

That is where we are today.  Some of us older people, who can remember the past and honor what our parents and those who came before them, try to get attention...but no one listens.  After all, what we propose is to honor an existence that involves consequences and responsibility, while the current government offers ease of existence, lack of guilt to go with lack of effort.  And an increasing number of citizens and inhabitants of this country no longer care about self-worth or effort.  And...given the situation...can you blame them?

But it saddens me that once I die, only future historians will even recognize the ongoing pattern...and I bet their generations will be just as blind to their own fall.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Is Control of our Government gone forever?

When was the last time that you felt that your government was being responsive to you, your values, your needs?  When was the last time that you felt that the government was there, in the words of the old half-joke, to help you?  When was the last time that you trusted the government to do the right thing?

If you are like most of the people I know, on all sides of the political spectrum, the answer is, "never!"

For a long time I have searched for a true answer for why this seems to be true.  Some have blamed ideology.  Others point to the need for term limits.  But these answers seem hollow and superficial.  Would changing those things change our attitude about today's United States of America Federal Government?  I suspect not.  So, my search has been ongoing, fitfully, for some time, since it seems that if one cannot define and truly identify the source of and reason for a problem, there is no hope at all for "fixing" it...assuming that it can be fixed.  And suddenly a whole new area of study and possible answer to my ongoing questions came to my attention.

In November of last year, one Professor Donald Livingston, Professor Emeritus at Emory University, gave a speech at the University of Virginia on Republicanism (the government form, not the political ideology), David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.  That speech was broadcast on C-SPAN just last week.  Now, most of us have had ideas come to us suddenly and the proverbial light bulb goes off in your brain.  But...this speech was flashbulbs of of incredible brilliance going off continually for an hour of rapt listening...and nodding ascent.  Never before had I even considered the effect of our form of government on the current status of the country.

Certainly I had been taught that our government was not a pure democracy but a Republic.  But the difference between a pure democracy and a republic was never, at least in my case, a matter of intense or critical study.  Nor was there ever a study of the advantages and limitations of a republican form of government.

What an error in our educational content.  But, perfectly understandable.  Why?  To answer that question completely requires the reading and study of commentaries on the subject by David Hume and Thomas Jefferson.  Or...for the equivalent of a Cliff Notes summary you might want to watch Prof. Livingston's speech on C-SPAN (   ) which would reduce what otherwise would take months of study to about an hour of video.  But I will share the substance of what stuck with me from watching and listening to Professor Livingston...and I am confident that substance will get your attention and initiate thought and debate.

The general view of republican governance was one where size mattered, if you were going to have representative rule.  If you get too big, you lose representative responsiveness.  Jefferson's vision was one of additional republics being formed as both population and area grew, maintaining the people's control of government.  The republics would then band together in a Commonwealth for cooperative defense and trade.  Up until the Civil War, succession was often discussed and seen as a legitimate evolving action for growth.  It wasn't until Abraham Lincoln reflecting the governmental philosophy of Thomas Hobbs, determined, by force, that the southern states could not secede and the "indivisible" term became the norm when speaking about the republic. Jefferson's view of the various republics being the political unit, to one where people became the the political unit and control was to be centralized.  The French Revolution resulted in the formation of the French Republic, the first modern large modern state republic, looking to the individual as the political unit.

No one comments on the mutually exclusive concepts of republican government as laid out by Jefferson and then by Lincoln (following the Hobbs model), and yet the significance and effects of this clash on our lives is long standing and enormous. The two approaches are incompatible, as Livingstone states.

All of this is interesting on its own, but you might ask how this translates to our perception that we have lost control of our government...and it is a good question.

At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, the House of Representatives elected one Representative for every 30,000 people.  But in 1911 the number of Representatives was capped at 435.  The result is that today there is one Representative for every 720,000 people.  If this ratio were applied to the original 13 states, the House would be composed of 5 members, and 8 states would have no representatives at all. On the other hand, to keep the same 30,000 to 1 ratio today, the House would have 10,500 members.  And the Supreme Court now is the decider of what the Constitution says.  This means that we have lost the republican view of governmental responsiveness as well as the rule of law.

Additionally, consider that the number of votes necessary to enact laws and authorize spending, all concentrated in Washington, D.C., is 268, and if you limit that to a quorum minimum, the number drops to 135.  This level of representation has resulted in a national debt of over 17 Trillion Dollars, and total unfunded liabilities variously estimated to be anywhere from $220 Trillion to $238 Trillion.  This is the burdon that our government has placed on our descendants.  To give you some prospective, in 2011 the Gross Domestic Product of all of the countries in the entire world amounted to $72 Trillion.

Now you start to see the source for the correct impression that we no longer control our government.

So...what to do.

David Hume wrote on how to solve the problem of size and save the responsiveness of government in a large republic.  Both he and Jefferson realized the greatest danger to the existence of a republic was corruption; the danger of a group of representatives to make decisions for their own purposes and aims. The answer was to divide America into 100 republics, not states, and move the House of Representatives out of Washington to each republic capitol, with each republic having 100 Representatives ( getting us back close to one representative for every 30,000 citizens).  The Senate would pass a bill, and then it would send that bill to each Republic for ratification.

This greatly eliminates the possibility of corruption, as the cost and logistics of lobbying 10,000 Representatives in 100 different locations would be at best, problematic and at worst, impossible.  There would also be the benefit of Representatives living and being constantly available to their constituents at home, rather than in the comforting isolation of the nation's Capitol.

With such a process, the Senate would not want to waste time with bills with "earmarks" and "pork" projects that were clearly not beneficial to all, as there would be no chance of passage by the House of Representatives.  And those bills which have merit, but not on the gigantic scale of the Commonwealth, could and would be adopted by those republics individually as they saw the smaller scale need.

Of course, the best operation of the republican form of governance is still the small republic.  The analogy presented by Professor Livingston seemed most apt, even if not absolutely correct from a medical viewpoint: when a cell grows beyond a certain size, it divides...when it does not it is a cancer.

I am convinced I have discovered (for myself) why our government no longer serves us; why it may still be "of the people", and "for the people", but is no longer "by the people."  Now I can begin to study and ponder on what the solution may be, including those as presented by the application of David Hume's "Large republic" concept.  But is seems clear that the status quo has nothing to offer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Benign Neglect?

The Harvard Business School teaches an element of management that is called "Benign Neglect." It is centered on the fact that roughly 60% of the things that crosses an executive's desk require no action by the executive. Either the problem will disappear or be solved by others, or the "emergency" will have been eliminated or solved by others by the time the executive needs to pay it any attention. It is dependent on the executive being trained and able to determine correctly which 40% actually need his or her attention.

Apparently someone had told Mr. Obama about this element. Also, apparently, Mr. Obama has not taken the requisite Harvard Business School course that would have taught him the finer points of the application.

The job of an executive is to supervise and direct. And you do that with knowledge of all that your subordinates are doing. When a subordinate hides something from you...regardless of the intention...they are suborning your authority and leaving you open to failure above and beyond your own choices...those people are 1) badly chosen, and 2) need to be fired forthwith.

The actions on A)Benghazi, B) the IRS, and C)the "creative" subpoenas with regard to the AP and Rosen have resulted in a plethora of "I didn't know"s, "I learned of it when you did", and "Someone else was investigating it and it was inappropriate for me to take any action" claims. Really???! 

I would argue before a jury that there was a pretty obvious pattern here of abdicating the responsibility of supervision and direction. But...that is not the thing that really torches me off...after all, I knew all along that Mr. Obama was administratively inept. What really frosts me is that he either does not now recognize his error, or he doesn't care.

Think about it...he doesn't have to run for office again. If he wished he could be truthful and right the ship, admitting the stupidity of his subordinates and their misdirected goal of "protecting" him, allow or direct them to fall on their swords and get on with the business of trying to do the best he can for the country in the next 3 years.

He could discover the concept of consequences, even as he protects his legacy, and throw the idiots with whom he has surrounded himself under the bus and pretend insight, going on to "do the right things" in actually and realistically compromising on getting some mutually acceptable bills passed. Unfortunately, i don't see that as happening.

For those who say that the Republicans are standing in his way, I suggest that is no different from the times that Democrats stood in the way of Republican Presidents. It is a challenge for President s to deal with the opposition. Some have done it successfully: look at Clinton...and at Reagan. It is an art or administering a country that is learned over time with the right training and background. It is not overcome by calling on the citizens to demonize those that disagree...that makes enemies and entrenches positions, making cooperation is an all or nothing approach. That has never been successful in America...and usually it has been disastrous. 

Look at what is going on. You determine what the approach being taken is...and how well chosen it is in the interest of the country.

Think we are on the right track?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mr. Obama is a Capitalist...really!

Mr Obama is a (C)apitalist.  Oh, I acknowledge that he often speaks of that practice with derision and loathing, pointing to what he considers to be the evils that such a practice visits upon the "middle class", the "common folk".

But take a few moments to listen to, and analyze, his criticisms.  Listen to the activities he defines as the excesses of Capitalism that warrants government supervision that (he argues) would lessen the worst of Capitalism's excesses.

He has two major criticisms: excessive accumulation of wealth and excessive accumulation of power.  In his eyes, unfettered Capitalism will concentrate both wealth and power in those who practice free-trade Capitalism.  And, regardless of who those "successful" people or companies are, by gaining such a concentration, they become intrinsically "bad."

Well, we could spend weeks discussing the definitions of "bad"...and "good".  Such definitions depend on the point of view of the definer...and whether such a person is looking short or long term.  That is for a different time and different discussion.

For the sake of this discussion I will argue on the presumption that Mr. Obama's definitions and claims are currently the predominant point of view.

On that basis I claim that by his own words and actions, Mr. Obama proves that a dedicated Capitalist.

Most of his followers respond in horror, claiming that he is a politician with the peoples' interests at heart.  Well, I agree that that is what he claims.  But what is he actually doing and what are the results...

What Capitalists do...and what they want to win.  That is the goal.  And that is defined by accumulation of wealth and power, with little regard to the wants and wishes of those who oppose them.  And when they have achieved something, they do not sit back in satisfaction and enjoy the fruits of their labors; no, they move immediately on to continue to destroy any opposition and to attend to any potential threats to their continuation in power and in riches.

Those politicians that are most revered in America have been those who, once an election was won and they had a certain amount of power, turned to governing; they realized that upon taking office, they represented not just their followers, but the entire country.  The realized that they had to protect citizens who did not agree with their vision.  And so they became more statesmanlike in their efforts, words and actions.  The time for pillaging was over and a time for governing at hand.

Campaigning has always taken on the practices and attitudes of unfettered Capitalism: win at all costs, truth be damned, and take no prisoners.

Governing is, essentially, reconstruction.

Candidate Obama was and remains the ultimate campaigner, tossing great sounding but undefined phrases around like candy and lying about his opponents with conviction and talent.  He is not alone; most politicians do this to some degree.  But he is in a class by himself in the degree and effectiveness of his efforts.

Great.  He won.

After sworn into office, he now had the chance to govern.  He had the chance to turn into a statesman.

Whether on purpose or lack of perception, he never made that turn.

He is like a Capitalist who is not yet sated; he has not yet gathered enough power to his administration nor taken enough of the wealth of the nation under the control of his administration.  Oh, he has tried.  He has spent money that he could only spend by borrowing.  He has made appointments that have been ruled unconstitutional in order to run government the way that best suits his view of an all-powerful government that provides a nanny-state for the citizens.  That is his definition of "good."

But he does this by concentrating on destroying his opposition, not convincing them through slow evolution of his governing concepts; it is his way or the highway, and any appearance of"working with others not of like mind" is a sham.

He is every bit as totalitarian as the robber barons of yore, or of the now-so-criticized Captains of Industry of the last century.  He is the epitome of the very persons and activities of which he so complains in his raids into the countryside to trumpet his rule.

President Obama....Capitalist.  Sneaky, able, ...and remarkably successful.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Love Christmas

I love Christmas.  Well, more precisely, I love the idea of Christmas.  That is my current feeling.  Over the years it has changed...a lot.  In my old age I can sit back and mull over my feelings over the years and the evolution of my thoughts and emotions with a bit more detachment.  And...I love the idea of Christmas.

The start of it all is that I believe in God.  Of course, I started out as a child being taught...some would argue, indoctrinated...that there was a God and that included moral precepts and standards.  Well, I grew up in a disciplined home where there were rules and there were consequences when the rules were broken.  I didn't much like that...then.  But as a grew up, even in my teens, I came to appreciate the presence of rules...and of consequences.

When young, God...and religion...was represented by men and women: Ministers and teachers who claimed to tell me what God wanted and what was right and wrong.  I didn't much like it...I had other ideas...often.  But when those "adult" representatives of God were proven to be less than honorable, honest, and consistent, I came to be an agnostic. I spent years exploring other established faiths and religions.  I found much to admire...and the same failings in all of them: People ran them seemed to get in the business of profiting from declaring God's Will.

I came finally to a point where God and I seemed to work out a dependable long as I didn't allow other human beings to get in the way.  All organizations, including and perhaps especially religions, lose their way and purpose over time and become more interested in their own power rather than in helping people find, know, and communicate with God.

But through it all was Christmas.  A time when all the people with whom I came in contact were happier, more kind and seemed to re-set their moral compass...for a time.  At least until mid-January.

Everyone uses Christmas for something different.  Evangelicals use it to re-focus their hearts and souls in the manner of their belief and hold all the various symbols of the time of year dear: the creche, the tree, the star of Bethlehem, the Wise Men and all the rest are dear to them, as they are to the other Christian faiths.  To Atheists  Christmas is just as important, as they point to the pagan elements that have been folded into the Christmas Story and the probability that Jesus was not born on Christmas as proofs of their point of view.  And Businesses love Christmas because it promises increased sales and profits.  Those lukewarm about Christmas as a religious occurence even love it because it means time off and a paid holiday.

Christmas, however, for me has become an opportunity to sit back and ponder on my belief in God and to appreciate the guidance that, when I take the time to listen for and to it, has benefited me all of my life.  I don't worry about the proofs about the Bible...or Christmas...or Science in general; my life experiences have unexplained events that can be explained by no other concept than God exists age and experience notwithstanding...I can always benefit from guidance from a higher source.

I have discounted those who argue humanism as a guiding standard; humans have proven themselves over the ages to be notoriously inhuman to their fellow man at  the most trivial of excuses.  The natural tendency of man is to be narcissistic and care not a wit for anyone unless there is self-benefit involved.  So...the only excuse for those who act with love and kindness toward others is that they are guided by God.

But, while I criticize often what I decree to be the excesses of the Christmas Season, I do not really object too much.  Whatever the motivation, the more people who support the celebration of Christmas, the better.  I want that opportunity to sit back and reflect on the year, my decisions, my foibles and my good fortune to remember... albeit all to sit back and listen to that small voice before embarking on any significant effort.

It is the idea...the Christ and in Christmas Spirit that sets me up to start yet another year.  Other points of view are fine with long as I am not forced to embrace them: I won't proselytize and I will not allow other to proselytize me in return.

Merry Christmas to all.