What Happened to Conservatism?

What has happened to Conservatism?  Historians trace the genesis of political conservatism to Edmund Burke (1729-1797), who first wrestled with the practical need for centralized authority versus the practical unfairness of centralized power. The Anglo-Irish Member of Parliament was one of the world’s biggest fans of the American solution to that problem – a practical apparatus for committing popular sovereignty – the Republic.  Not much else happened in the political realm to refine conservatism until Russell Kirk (1918-1994), whose book, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (1953), gave shape to the amorphous post-war conservative movement by tracing the rather subtle development of conservative thought in the Anglo-American tradition, and was quickly followed by William F Buckley Jr (1925-2008) – who had actually anticipated Kirk with his wave-making essay God and Man at Yale (1951) – but is best-known for the founding of National Review in 1955.

That Burke (a follower of those Liberals in Philadelphia) could be retrospectively cited as the founder of political conservatism speaks to two things – the drift of Liberalism since our Founding; and the intellectual arrogance of both movements (Liberals and Conservatives).  Liberals, unable to recognize their victory with the Constitution, thought their base message was, not Liberty, but Change (sound familiar?).  So once they had erected a magnificent edifice to liberty, they set about picking it apart.  At the same time, “opinion makers”, those who see themselves as society’s thinkers, have constantly felt the need to quote the obscure in promoting the obvious.  In doing so, a search was undertaken to find a figure who had surprisingly spoken to our times from the grave, instead of the rather handier option of returning to the thoughts and writings of our Founders: “Look here, you got your Change in 1788 … it works … quit fixing it.”

In adopting a mantra of Change, one eventually requires the force and power of the government to inflict “help” upon an unwilling – or at least an apathetic – polity.  In the degree to which one relies on legislation to embellish the Constitutional relationship between government, business and the people, one is becoming an imperialist.  The micromanagement of society is not a populist stance, it’s Imperial.  It also pits a slow-moving body of committees and subcommittees against individuals, who are agile in their self-defense.  Our attention was jerked wide when Woodrow “I won’t send your sons to overseas wars” Wilson sent our sons to France.

In an attempt to consummate the end of the War to End All War, the League of Nations was founded on the counterintuitive idea of “sovereign equality” – one nation, one vote.  In order to legitimate the findings and decisions of the League, it was necessary to render the morality and ethics of governance transparent to the diplomatic function – Kim Jung-Il is equivalent to Kim Dae-jung – let alone Barack Obama, Gordon Brown or Nicholas Sarkozy.  The United Nations has become so lop-sided with regrettable regimes that it has become an Orwellian democracy of dictatorships.  This should-be-obvious surreality of sovereign equality drove a segment of Wilsonian Liberal Internationalists into the conservative camp, being, as one of them put it, “Liberals who have been mugged by reality.”

Norman Poderhertz and his followers became known as (although they have never used the moniker) “Neoconservatives”, and they came to symbolize the evangelical promotion of market republicanism.  Conservatives were suddenly discussing a revolutionary foreign policy emphasizing regime-change (what we used to call “war”) in regimes we didn’t like and the popular take-over (what we used to accuse the Communists of) of regimes we didn’t trust.  Neoconservative purity was reached by converts like ex-socialist Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the father of Realpolitik, Henry Kissinger.  The real-world break came when Neoconservatives of a lesser shine came to power – GW Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.  Their first meaningful act – the post-September 11th invasion of Afghanistan – was intellectually supported by Liberals and Conservatives alike; their second – the invasion of Iraq – was intellectually opposed by both.  Spreading the Word (democracy) had become the antiseptic to Oppression (not-democratic).  Once that leap of faith is made, geopolitical thinking dramatically changes.

Inflicting freedom upon an unsuspecting polity is as Imperialistic as is cradle-to-grave Liberalism.  The profound difference between the camps was highlighted by their post-decision behavior – one side tried to win the unfortunate war, and the other tried to lose it.  They desperately tried to defund the war, called the Commander-in-Chief an idiot, ran the SecDef out of town, told the Theater Commander that what he was about to say was a lie, denigrated the mission, and accused the shooters of being barbarians … but they were “for the troops.”  Puleeeeze!

A college of ex-Wilsonians had taken titular control of the Conservative movement and was in the process of re-defining it.  Well-intentioned Imperialism was being wielded in the name of the party of anti-Imperialism.  As often happens to sinners who have suddenly discovered their apostasy, the next rule is far easier to break.  Governing Republicans lost all sense of their republicanism.  Republicans had become functionally indistinguishable from Democrats.

I would make it required for candidates for office – one would think it to be required of high school graduates – to read and understand the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Federalist Papers.  For one thing, it would stop them from saying “we can’t know the intent of the Founders” about this or that.  We need to get back to teaching those things.  We need to get back to talking about the relationship of government to business and the individual.

Next election day, do me a favor and look around at society … incumbents have done this.

What Happened to Liberalism?

What has happened to liberalism?  Political liberalism was born of the Enlightenment – the individual is subservient to the state (be it ecclesiastical or political) by choice – we’ve all got the government we deserve (read: put up with), and should we desire a better one, become it.  John Locke, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, and yes, the rich old white guys who fathered America, were all liberals, and they all defined liberalism as the liberating of the individual from the destructive paternalism of the state.  The Articles of Confederation granted the full range of freedoms to all except for “vagabonds, paupers and fugitives”.  Any questions on where our Founders stood on welfare statism?

By establishing a republic (“ … if you can keep it”) dedicated to, among other things, “the Pursuit of Happiness”, they established a meritocracy ruled by a meritocracy.  This was the genius (dare I say, radical liberalism) of the Articles and the Constitution – we adopted the first national charter to delineate the rights and responsibilities of government, allowing the people to move freely, rather than the other way around (which had been the historical norm).  America is unique in that it was founded on a creed – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – rather than a ruling pedigree.

While not classless (as long as people’s capabilities differ, there will be classification by some criteria), we are a casteless society.  The great-grandson of slaves can rise to become the general of generals and Secretary of State.  From being owned to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in four generations is by all historical measures breathtaking.  And that speaks to the endurance of our founding principles as ensconced in the Constitution.

Beginning in the late-60s, the blending of post-Vietnam angst, apocalyptic feminism and the civil rights movement sired political correctness, the conflation of “liberty” and “equality”, and blame-America-first chic.  In a badly-scripted remake of Reds, the intelligencia again embraced socialism as being “fairer” than capitalism (think: punishes anyone with the temerity to succeed).  At that point, “liberals” branched away from classical political Liberalism and embarked as “progressives”.  Neoliberals.  Free the individual from the shackles of government?  Au contraire … “we” know what’s best for “you”, and it takes government to save you from yourself.  That’s not Liberalism, it’s elitism.

Professional Neoliberals thrive on class warfare – they get their causes from victims and grow their demographic by sowing victimization.  They see their stratagem as self-generating – convince a constituency that they are victims, solve their “problem” with other people’s money, enjoy their political loyalty, look for another class of victims.  They see their path to power, in other words, as the bribery of the unwashed masses, and if you’re not a true believer, my friend, that includes you.

I would like to see the patina removed so we can have an honest public debate between Neoliberals and Paleoliberals (what we now call “conservatives”) over the functional, efficacious, ethical and moral arrangements between government, business and the individual.  If you’re for equality of opportunity, don’t quote Horatio Alger, tell me you’re a capitalist.  If you’re for equality of results, don’t read from Dickens, tell me you’re a socialist.  This isn’t an anecdotal pissing contest, it’s about how much liberty we should concede to government, and why.

Part of the problem is the disconnect between public servants as envisioned by the Authors and the elected officials we actually have.  Madison, Jefferson, Washington, et al, recognized the self-cleansing aspect of “government by the people” – a steady rotation between public service and private life – as prophylactic against a political aristocracy.  Washington even warned us about the ramifications of permanent political organizations (parties).  Nonetheless, we have saddled ourselves with a professional political class (i.e., ruling aristocracy).  The thought of Robert Byrd representing the good people of West Virginia for the life-span of large land animals would have horrified our Founders.  Have we become the aristocratic dystopia our founders pledged their Lives, their Fortunes and their Sacred Honor to throw off?  You tell me … are your elected representatives closer Roman Senators or Frank Capra’s Mr Smith?

The arrogance of power is no different than the arrogance of doctors, or lawyers (or any group that has some arcane knowledge-base that separates them from the people), except of course that they have F-22s and the IRS.  It’s the arrogance (not the “of power”) that breeds elitism, and elitism feeds a bureaucratic instinct to grow.  One intentionally and one blindly, both Neoliberals and the natural tendencies of organizations, desire increased jurisdictia – ever-increasing areas of influence.  This is the default trajectory of our government … and that is Mr Franklin’s “if you can keep it” conundrum.

As surly as complacency and just a little avarice gave us Enron’s Ken Lay, complacency and just a little avarice have given us Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  For whatever reason, we’ve been delinquent in our oversight role of watching the watchers.  Those who we entrusted to observe and operate our society have been unceremoniously bribing us with our own money – trading shiny beads for power (viz., our liberty).  It’s time we stripped away the veil of emotionalism and began talking about the arrangements between government, business and the individual.

Next election day, do me a favor and look around at society … incumbents have done this.

American Fascism?

Are we off on a trail blazed by Benito Mussolini?  Of all Europeans to copy (with apologies to Sr Restucci), Italy hasn’t exhibited a stable government since Hadrian.  Government’s diddling with the microanatomy of an otherwise free market system does not have a bright line between a paternalistic interventionism and fascism. I f one existed, it would probably look a lot like governing out of anger.

The House voted 328-93 (3-20-09) in favor of a 90% tax on bonuses, affecting all companies receiving more than $5 billion in federal bailout money. The Senate plans to vote this week. The measure doesn’t single out employees at AIG and instead uses general language: bonuses for employees at Bank of America Corporation, Citigroup Incorporated, JPMorgan Chase & Company, Goldman Sachs Group Incorporated and Morgan Stanley would also be affected[1]. But anyone who tells you that this isn’t instigated by, and targeted at, AIG’s $162 million of bonuses, will lie about other stuff, too (see Nancy Pelosi)[2].

This is a classic case of transference, as Congress (who invited this to happen) is not only blaming AIG for it, but is punishing them (and all other red-headed, freckle-faced kids who look like them).  This is “social justice” as administered by a 7-year-old.

The administration is, figuratively and literally, out of control.  So far under Hopeychange, we’re averaging a trillion a month (not counting the $3.6 trillion budget); we’re taking over some firms and letting others fail, with no discernable logic governing why for which; we’ve got the House clubbing people with the IRS; nobody’s running Treasury; we’re adding “toxic asset” to list of “terrorism”, “Islamist” and “War on Terror” as things we can no longer utter out loud[3]; and President Obama’s got UNC winning the national championship.

The trajectory of government since the inauguration fits either of two operating methodologies.  Either Obama/Immanuel is exercising exquisite guidance of events (as they coincide with, and reinforce movement toward, an increasing socialization of markets and behavior); or Team Obama is in over its head, and the individual agencies are operating on unbridled bureaucratic inertia (which always leads to increased authority).

Pick one.

[1] See Greg Stohr, Courts Unlikely to Strike Down AIG Tax Law, Legal Experts Say, in Bloomberg News, March 22 2009, contact Mr Stohr at: gstohr@bloomberg.net.

[2] Which is why this abuts, if not breaches, ex post facto laws (whereby a law retroactively punishes behavior that was not illegal when committed), which are expressly prohibited by the Constitution.

[3] “Legacy assets” are what we are trying to sell to the private sector in order to relieve the financials of these things on their balance sheets.  And the government is leveraging 96% of the risk – another trillion – we’re selling dollar bills for a nickel and acting like it’s a way out of financial irresponsibility.

a Segué Between Quantum Mechanics and Washington

What Sir Thomas Hobbes’ (1588-1679) Leviathan did was to cut through all of the mythology and dogma to gaze directly upon the workings of creatures in nature.  One can observe animals in the wild and see that they live by their wits and that, typically, their lives are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.  Amphibians and fish lay hundreds to thousands of eggs because most will be eaten before they can gestate.  Animals too weak to keep up with the herd are left behind to fend for themselves.  The nomadic hominid bands of our ancestors were no different.  The carrying capacity of the band regulated infant mortality and the degree to which the old, the sick and the lame could be tolerated.  And that carrying capacity itself was regulated by illness, injury and the whims of weather.  The state of nature – the starting point for all development – is anarchy.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) did this for economics.  Stripped of all of its nuances and occlusions, value is added by human activity upon materials of a lesser intrinsic value, and that value, be it intrinsic or added, is set by markets; a market consists of buyers and sellers, each acting in their own self-interest.  Economics is the calculus of human interactivity; no one invented it, it just happens.  This added value – the seller’s difference between cost and price – is profit.  Newly created wealth.  Price – value – is the interaction of supply and demand: as demand overcomes supply, value increases; as supply overcomes demand, value decreases.  At its base, economics is the dynamic vector matrix of a meritocracy.  All else is “econometrics”, or how we distort these relationships to get the matrix product we think we want.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) did the same for biology.  Self-replicating nature is not exact – offspring are not clones.  An over-long gene here, a missing one there.  This aspect of self-replication is known as mutation, and nature is shot-through with it.  To begin with, every offspring is an “averaged” mutation of its parents, but beyond that, features that should be common (e.g., two arms), are at times mutated beyond what DNA-coding would predict.  This happens far more often the more subtle you get (e.g., internal operating temperature or propensity to incubate a certain virus), and some are driven by the extant environment (e.g., skin pigmentation or antibodies passed down from the mother).  Darwin’s point was that those mutations which most favorably match existing conditions will tend to survive and reproduce, subtly changing the “average” DNA of the species – thereby continually changing the species itself over time, not toward some ideal, but as a lagging indicator of the general environment within which the species exists.  From this tendency, all of our flora and fauna have found niches in nature within which to flourish … at which they have developed, by trial and error, expertise.  Nature’s anarchy, it seems, yields a highly ordered, if incalculably complex, macro overlay.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) followed suit for physics.  While investigating a highly specific set of behaviors (the photoelectric effect), Einstein stumbled onto some very general principles[1].  By gleaning the relationship between energy and matter, and determining that optic velocity is terminal and absolute, we can now explain the interaction of things ranging from galactic super-clusters to sub-elemental particles[2].  Everything is a product of the field within which it occurs.  “Everything in the Universe,” he would tell students, “works like the Universe works.”  There is an elegant relationship of principles which drive the way in which things interact.  Nature’s anarchy, while appearing chaotic, is highly ordered and colloquially predictive, if not directed – there is no goal-state towards which the Universe is striving, save entropy, only whatever end-state at which it happens to arrive (should something stop time before entropy becomes pandemic).

What these four thinkers – Hobbes, Smith, Darwin and Einstein – share is the discovery of the fundamental principles that describe the behavior of some class of entities.  This is how things – gross human behavior, net human behavior, biological behavior, and forces generally – work.  They are each describing different facets, in varying degrees of granulation, of the same thing: natural forces and how they interact.  There is a latent resonance to their observations as well: the more one diddles with the laissez faire – things as you find them – the more anomalous (read: mortal) one’s design is likely to be.  Field theory describes how anomalies are absorbed by the greater field (environment) – oddities are “averaged” into the whole – and the extinction of the chronically mal-adapted.

Governments, like all things in the Universe, work this way, too.  All is vector analysis – Realist balance of power stuff.  Next time you think Realist dynamics don’t drive human behavior, fire all your cops.

[1] See Albert Einstein, Special Theory of Relativity, Zürich, 1905.

[2] It must be noted that relativistic physics, which is the foundation of the Standard Model, breaks down at the Planck-time barrier, or 5.39124 X 10-44sec (0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000539124 of a second after the Big Bang), when the entire Universe was smaller than a neutron, and temperatures and pressures were so great that the very first sub-atomic particles (matter) had just begun to settle-out of the flux, and all forces were bound into a single strong-electro-weak-gravitational force.  Quantum physics and various Grand Unified Theories are trying to fill-in that gap.

… and Now for Something Totally Different

Since it’s becoming too easy to pick on AIG (they’re a veritable piñata – you can swing at it from any angle and reward falls out), I submit a bit of a distraction from the dystopia that has become Washington.

This summer we’re going to fire-up CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and peer deeper into the very early moments of the Universe’s coming into being.  This will give us a clearer view of: enter alia, how the background radiation homogenized so quickly; neutrino production; micro black holes; and perhaps the separation of gravity from the still-bundled electro-weak-strong force.  But the advertised “Big Event” is going to be the search for the Higgs boson – the only major missing piece from the Standard Model, which explains everything we’ve observed and everything we know about for the last 30 years.  This is exciting stuff.

Bear with me for a moment.  The Cosmic Egg – everything in the Universe, in just pre-Big Bang form – was a theoretical singularity where dimensions were minimized (down to and approximating zero), mass/energy was constant (what it is today) and density was maximized (up to and approximating infinity) – temperatures and pressures were infinitely high. These conditions as environment are opaque to relativistic physics … we can’t predict micro or macro behavior because our rules don’t apply under these conditions.  As the Universe began its initial explosive expansion, it began passing through epochs, or stages of microanatomy, named by the fundamental “phase change” that marked its beginning (e.g., the point at which the Universe cooled enough to permit the “settling out” of matter from the hot, energetic plasma background).  We are currently in the Post-Electro-Weak Epoch, or, after the weak nuclear force separated from electromagnetism, but before the separation of the electrical and magnetic forces.

During this very early, very hot, very dense expansion, an array of sub-atomics formed which would go on to combine into more complex entities (which then would go on to combine into even more complex entities, and so on).  Each of these particles (indeed, all things in the Universe[1]) contain a specific, repeatable and predictable mass. Gravity has a specific, repeatable and predictable exponential relationship to mass and distance.  The masses of these sub atomic particles, it turns out, are fundamentally important to the behavior of all things that arise from them (read: everything).  To understand these particles is to increase the resolution of our understanding of how the Universe works – a profoundly interesting thing to know.  This blanket “understanding”, at its most resolute, is the Standard Model.

By expressing the various relationships between forces and matter mathematically, it’s possible to “model” or “game” our theory of the Universe, both to confirm and to predict given events in a dynamic environment – we can tweak the controls and watch what happens. In so doing, we have (mathematically) “run the film backwards”, modeling the Universe at these very early, very energetic stages, “started the film forward again,” and “watched” as particles and anti-particles are created and annihilated, and as they interacted.  These models predict certain phase changes in the background that result in creation of certain particles and the transmutation of these particles as they acquire certain properties – mass among them.  The masses of these unimaginably tiny sub-atomics would be meaningless if expressed in pounds or anything else in our familiar experience, and as such, they are measured in electron-volts (eV).  This represents the energy density of the background below which this specific particle can exist as matter, and is measured in the billions of electron-volts (GeV).  During that transformation, it is mathematically demonstrated that proto-particles about to blink into existence acquire mass during a process, and by way of a phenomenon, from which we have so far been shielded. That phenomenon we call the “Higgs boson”, and it should occur at background energy densities of between 185GeV and 114GeV[2], but we haven’t been able to exhaustively explore these regimes because, until the LHC, we haven’t been able to generate them much beyond the lower limit.

This summer, we are going to focus two particle streams, each traveling at a significant fraction of optic velocity, into a collision-point yielding an energy release in excess of 185GeV, and so we very likely could observe the fact or the effects of the Higgs boson (which would further confirm the Standard Model), or perhaps demonstrate its impossibility (highlighting a fundamental flaw in the Standard Model).

This is exciting stuff.

[1] You in the back row … put your hand down.  I know about photons and neutrinos all those exotic massless particles, but they’re transparent to this analysis, and their discussion would only necessitate a non-productive foray into definitions and genesis.

[2] Note that Fermilab has ruled out a Higgs mass of between 160 and 170GeV.


“Go ahead,” hissed Barney Frank, staring down the barrel of a .44 magnum committee, “make my day.”

We are having a Gilbert & Sullivan moment as Congress choreographs its spontaneous outrage over AIG’s paying ~$160 million in bonuses to the very people who flash-bankrupted the company and placed large segments of the world’s economy at risk[1].  They patiently await their turn at the microphone to be “Shocked! … shocked!” (see: Claude Raines in Casablanca), as they sputter, “that such a thing could even be considered by rational human beings!”

Let’s have a seat and take a deep breath and examine the field and the players for a moment.  The amount of money (“taxpayer money!”, as each Congressman solemnly parrots) being given by AIG as bonuses is a rounding error in the amount of monies given to AIG by the “taxpayers”.  How about who at Treasury should have known about the $62 billion of AIG-bailout that went offshore to places like France, Germany, Dubai, Scotland and others?  Party-A paying party-B through party-C gets parties-A and C busted for money laundering in the real world, but apparently in Barney Frank’s world, it legitimizes party-A’s ability to extort party-C.  Curious that party-C has no leverage to disclose party-A’s complicity to the authorities … Oh, that’s right … party-A is the authorities.

In an extraordinarily Oprah-esque demonstration, the Committee apolitically pined for a way to “return this money to the taxpayers”, knowing full well that no such thing would ever happen – the money would be returned to Treasury where the Executive or Congress could not read another bill and misappropriate it to someone else.

In what could only have brought a tear to the eye of Colonial Salem’s Witch-Hunter-in-Chief, AIG CEO Edward M Liddy was serially filleted by indignant Congressmen (“Shocked! … shocked!”) for having paid the bonuses out.  Liddy, who was chosen by Congress to manage the breakup of AIG for a dollar a year, wasn’t yet installed at AIG when the bonuses were contracted, and he had every confidence that Congress and the Executive were aware of the arrangement and therefore of the pending release of funds.  Of course they knew.  It was Congress that mandated the payment of bonuses in the language of the “stimulus” bill, and Tim Geithner was Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank (who negotiated the terms of the bailout – including all salaries and bonuses – with AIG) when these arrangements were fashioned.

What, then, was all the pontificating about?  As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s half scapegoating, half ass-covering, and the rest is ego.

Example: “You must offer these bonuses in order to attract/retain ‘the best and brightest’ to your firm.”  You mean like the geniuses who flash-bankrupted your company?  This is pure sophistry.  With the Darwinian shakeout happening on Wall Street, you probably have the largest pool of unemployed, highly-trained, sophisticated financial instrument engineers that one could expect in a lifetime.  Take a risk.

Example: “We must retain these traders who created the derivatives because, being so complex, they are the only ones who can unravel them.”  Really?  AIG’s management risked multiples of the firm’s market cap on creating a market for VooDoo instruments that nobody in the firm understood?  And they got bonuses, too?  Keep ‘em away from TurboTax.

Gary Ackerman (D-NY) managed the only rational suggestion of the day: “Mr Liddy, just pay the amount of the bonuses back to Treasury.”  This would end the spectacle.  But Liddy missed (or dodged) the point.  “I have already asked those who received bonuses of $100,000 or more to return half of it,” Mr Liddy responded.  I wouldn’t care how (or if) AIG was able to recoup the amount of the payback, the point is to return that money to Treasury – if AIG can recover it from employees, all to AIG’s good, if not, it will have to come out of operating capital (read: the bailout).  Likely precisely because it would end the spectacle (and therefore TV time), the Committee resoundingly ignored Representative Ackerman’s suggestion.

Congress is doing what Congress does every time it gets its hand caught in the monkey trap … it demands to know who was supposed to be regulating monkey traps.  Am I the only one who sees Shakespearian irony when watching the guys who are operators of record of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lecturing Ed Liddy on fiduciary responsibility?

[1] AIG’s Financial Products Division is who invented, bundled and made chic the infamous housing-loan-based derivatives.

Global Warming as Y2K Déjà Vu on Steroids

Ever wonder what’s like to be in, or in the midst of, a cult?  Well, look around.  The “Global Warming” sect of popular culture has assumed a status of somewhere between a cult and a religion.  Both require a base of inadequate or pseudo science, and a willingness to exhibit “faith” – the assumption of conclusions in spite of the evidence, rather than because of it.  As the movement grows, it becomes intellectually fascistic, as the tenets of belief become increasingly numerous and absolutist.  It reduces alternate philosophies to “mere theories”, and demeans or defiles outspoken “infidels”.

Sound familiar?

“Global climate is warming,” they gravely tell us (lower-lip quivering).  OK.  “But you don’t understand,” they employ, “we did it.”  Did what?  “Global Warming!”  How’d we do THAT?

And here is where the catechism begins.

At first, it was the “growing” opening in the ozone (O3) layer of our atmosphere, which, of course, is caused by hairspray.  Then one day, NASA, becoming aware of the national discussion regarding the coming doom by the “hole” eating the entire ozone layer, looked up and said, “hey guys, we’ve been mapping the ozone layer for years and it “breathes”, its size, like all relationships in a dynamic environment, oscillates about a mean, sometimes growing, sometimes shrinking.”  Well that was unsettling, but we quickly recovered with the discovery of carbon dioxide (CO2). “We drive to work … we light and heat and cool our homes.”  What hubris we’ve displayed!  We’ve … we’ve … CIVILIZED!  “But you don’t understand,” they employ, “look at my relic,” producing a copy of the famous “Hockey Stick” average temperature-trace for last 30,000 or so years, and, sure enough, there’s an anomalous, steady rise beginning around the turn of the 20th century, just when we began the widespread practice of taking the official temperature in (atypically warm) cities, and, increasingly, at (atypically hot and universally unshaded) airports.

Who ended the last Ice Age, were our paleolithic ancestors driving SUVs?  “We can talk about that later, right now we’ve got an emergency … we’ve got to save the planet.”  I’m pretty sure the Earth has been dramatically less hospitable during its long and colorful history, but that’s an aside.  ([In passing] That was the fourth Ice Age, you know).  Does the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide cause an increase in general warming (greenhouse effect), or does an increase in general warming cause the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (increased rotting of vastly increased regions of vegetation)? [Deer-caught-in-the-headlights look]

There are several and varied phenomena that could (and probably do) influence the year-over-year average air temperature at the surface.  The rotational axis of the Earth tilts relative to its orbital plane by 23.44° (23° 26’), and the direction of that tilt relative to the Sun nutates, or processes, slowly around a perpendicular to the orbital plane, sometimes pointing away from the Sun and sometimes pointing toward it – and all points between – with a frequency of around 26,000 years[1].  The annual number of sunspots rhythmically oscillates around a mean with a frequency of about 11 years.  The surface temperature of the Sun fluctuates, causing increases and decreases in the Solar Wind – the material ejecta radiating from the Sun – causing increasing and decreasing high-energy particle bombardment of our atmosphere.  The surface temperature of the Earth itself varies as the crust heats or cools with variations in the location and frequency of tectonic and volcanic activity.  And yes, we drive to work and light and heat and cool our homes.

Personally, I think it unwise to disrupt history’s most successful economy on a theory about a theory.

[1] The Mayans knew this (will someone out there please ask Charleze Theron to read my eMail about what we should do with the last two or so years before the destruction of the Earth?).

Hope and Change

Hope and change.  How’s that workin’ for ya?  I’m seeing a disturbing pattern coalescing around President Obama’s words and deeds.  Actually we were all warned as early as the primaries, but apparently no one paid attention.  Every time he thought he was only talking in the room, an elitist streak showed itself (remember all those stupid rubes who clung to their guns and God while spewing xenophobic fear?)  Or my personal favorite, promising the people of Ohio that he would opt out of NAFTA while his economic advisor was in Canada reassuring them that he didn’t mean it.

Were these (and others) just aberrations? Inevitable, innocent inconsistencies resulting from the 24-hour news cycle?  You tell me.

“The age of earmarks is over”, he has repeatedly told us, and then signed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill with over 8,000 earmarks totaling “only” $7 billion.  “That was last year’s business”, he weaseled. 

I’m very curious to see how his 95% of Americans who won’t pay “one cent more in taxes” will avoid the cap-and-trade scam.  Everything one buys, eats, wears, drives or lives in will be made more expensive by this ill-guided (at best) mandatory cost on any business that uses energy … in other words, taxed.  Which each will, of course, pass it along to the final consumer.

Two stories.

First: The farmer sells his wheat to the miller for a price that covers his costs (labor, amortized plant and equipment and taxes) with enough left over (profit) to see him through to the next harvest.  The farmer’s price is the miller’s cost, and he processes the wheat and sells it to the baker at a price that covers his costs (labor, amortized plant and equipment and taxes), plus a profit (else there is no reason to go to the trouble of making flour).  The miller’s price is the baker’s cost, and he adds other ingredients and bakes it into bread, which he then sells for enough to cover his costs (labor, amortized plant and equipment and taxes), plus a profit.  Two things here are germane to today’s environment: The farmer’s, miller’s and baker’s profits are all newly created wealth; and notice that all costs and taxes are paid by the final consumer (you and me).  Businesses don’t pay taxes, they merely temporarily collect them.

Second: Know how cap-and-trade works?  Company-A conducts business while expelling less carbon dioxide than is allotted by government.  Company-B however, will expel more carbon than government allows for his business, so he buys unused carbon allotments from Company-A.  Net carbon reduction; Zero.  Net cost increase to the consumer: whatever government decides carbon allotments are worth.  Who get the extra money?  Government (tax on every Company-A’s newly increased income).  And Bernie Madoff thought he was good.

As I said, how’s that Hope and Change workin’ for ya?

Who Are We?

There is a lot of truth – and not a little wisdom – in old adage that a camel is a cat designed by committee.

Give an idea to a committee, and I guarantee that you will not recognize it after they have “perfected” it – an hilariously self-servingly named process politicians use for transforming your idea to their purposes.  This mentality was illustrated in sharp relief by a Congressman who, defending earmarks, asked, “if I can’t bring benefits to my district, why am I here?” Oh … I don’t know … maybe to operate government in the nation’s best interest?  The idea that the highest and best function of an elected official is to take everybody else’s money and funnel it to parochial interests is to profoundly misunderstand the function of elected officials (not to mention that of government).

The first official document produced by our founders states those functions at the outset:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The rightful purpose of government is to establish and protect a geopolitical space within which people are at liberty. Note that is not government’s duty to provide “happiness”, only that its constituents are free to “pursue” it. The “equality” spoken of is one of opportunity, not outcome.

This document concludes by stating:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

These people were willing to go broke – to die – and never compromise their principles, so that their progeny (you and I) could be free. Does this bear any resemblance to your representative or senator?

I am against term limits (“stop me before I vote again”), but we, the people, need to remember two things: the highest and best use of our vote is to elect someone who will protect our liberty (not to erect or maintain some advantage); and “saving” us from failure is to steal from us the possibility to succeed.

Time for a re-think

What was it that Einstein said about repeating the same activity and expecting different results?  Oh, that’s right. That was his definition of insanity.  Victor Davis Hanson[1] claims we continue hitting ourselves with a hammer to see if it still hurts, in our “handling” of the Israeli/Palestinian situation[2].

And now former US Senator George Mitchell (D-MI) joins James Baker, Philip Habib, General James Jones (USMC), Henry Kissinger, Sol Linowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Dennis Ross and General Anthony Zinni (USMC) as “special” envoy to the Middle East – read: Israeli/Palestinian “fixer”.  Been there, done that.

After the diplomatic kabuki dance, after breathless trips between Gaza, Jerusalem, Damascus, Amman, and Cairo, will come a “Mitchell Plan”.  And like Annapolis, Beirut, Camp David, Geneva, Madrid, Oslo, Taba and Wye River, it will proclaim to have reached a breakthrough understanding, only requiring Israel to re-assume its pre-1967 borders.  Been there, done that.

But this one will have a United Nations component.  You mean like UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515, ad nauseum?  Been there, done that.

Increasing Mr Mitchell’s degree of difficulty is the fact that his Israeli interlocutor is one Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu[3], who has stated that “Land-for-Peace doesn’t work – will never work – because Palestinian leadership has no interest in peace with Israel”; and that Israel ceased offensive operations too soon in Gaza[4].

He’s right.

· Consider: Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel – government and people; Israel seeks geopolitical normality, to be a nation among nations, engaging the world in trade.  What, exactly, is the compromise position here?  Half a Holocaust?

· Consider: President Clinton offered Yasser Arafat 90% of what his rhetoric had been demanding, including a two-state “solution”, and Mr Arafat rejected the idea before Mr Clinton could even present it to the Israelis.  Palestinians (and Arabs generally) are more desirous of Palestinians with a cause than Palestinians with a flag.

· Consider: Every time somebody’s peace process gains traction, the Palestinians (or Hizbollah) commits some act so heinous as to derail the talks.  This doesn’t happen often, it happens every time[5].

The world needs to consider the possibility that a “Two-State Solution” won’t work because one state doesn’t trust it and the other doesn’t even want it.  His point about Operation Cast Lead is that the IDF should have taken (and retained) control of the Gaza/Sinai border, and therefore its tunnels, interdicting the Syrian/Iranian highway into the Strip.

The only way a “Two-State Solution” is possible, is if Palestinians can demonstrate to the world that it is capable of erecting and sustaining a stable state; and if they can demonstrate to the Israelis that they accept their right to exist, and they can politically work together on matters of mutual concern.  Yes, this puts the responsibility on the Palestinians, but it is the Palestinians who devolved Gaza into a ghetto seething with terrorists; it is the Palestinians who have a leave-or-die policy; it is the Palestinians who daily commit international war crimes by not only targeting noncombatants, but also by seeking to maximize that collateral damage; it is the Palestinians whose chief economic activity is spending foreign aid.

What Mr Mitchell faces is a classic case of counterinsurgency.

First we need to ascertain the existence of a Palestinian polity willing to live side-by-side with a diplomatically recognized Israel, for if this constituency doesn’t exist the “Two-State Solution” is based on a myth.  Then we need to find what makes them different from the terrorist/enabler population – what feature(s) can we exploit to recruit and strengthen the “moderate” bloc?  Tailor this exploitation so as to also encourage this bloc to overtly reject the terrorists/enablers, taking away their base.  Thus exposed, it becomes possible to engage the terrorist/enablers with jurisprudential or kinetic means, providing security for the “moderates”.  A shadow government should be shepherded among the “moderates” providing an infrastructure of services and self-governance.

Mr Netanyahu, seeming to recognize this, suggests negotiating with the Palestinians on economic issues and policing.  “That is not a replacement for political negotiations” toward a peace treaty, he said. “It is the only path toward them[6].”  Shortly after Israel’s election (and formation of a government), Mr Mitchell (and his “Two-State” hammer) will show up at Ben-Gurion International.

Prognosis: no lasting progress on the Israeli/Palestinian problem.

[1] Senior fellow, Hoover Institution [Stanford University]; author, A War Like No Other, October 2005, Random House.

[2] See Victor Davis Hanson, Been there, done that in the Middle East, in Jewish World Review, February 5 2009.

[3] Father of Lieutenant David Netanyahu, the only Israeli casualty taken during the raid on Entebbe [Uganda].

[4] See Netanyahu Says Israel’s Gaza Offensive Ended Too Soon, in Wall Street Journal, February 4 2009.

[5] What was happening just before the 10-fold increase in rocket attacks on southern Israel that prompted the incursion into Gaza? Olmert and Abbas were talking about giving Fatah more autonomy in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], setting a better example of self-governance than the chaos in Gaza.

[6] Ibid.