Thursday, December 25, 2008

The season of all seasons

During this day of Christmas, a traditional holiday although celebrated in many ways over the centuries, I find myself looking at these other seasons that we have heard about from our past. Our Revolution was rife with them, with the best known being the Season of our Discontent and the other of the Sunshine Soldier and Summer Patriot. Those two dovetailed with discontent leading to such summer easiness which would be followed by a fall of those that came in summer leaving and replaced by a final winter grimness and resolution that caused these seasons to be cited at the time. America, once she worked through the pain of the Revolution found herself without one-quarter of her population that she had at the start. Those who had no stomach for Revolution, for this new way of government, left for other Crown Colonies or back to Britain and they were the larger part of that loss at 15%. The Patriots who founded this land lost an astonishing 10% of the total population, dead, and many more that had been imprisoned for years their views on their fellow man forever changed by that experience. Little did we expect that the actual act of becoming a Nation and having a Peace Treaty was but a lull and gentle warming that would be followed by the last of the dark winter that followed. That winter was one of dreams crumbling, people imprisoned for the general debt levied upon them, and a worse discontent growing and rising, yet again, under the banner of 'No Taxation Without Representation'.

America had failed to keep 15% of her population, lost another 10% dead and now the remaining 75% were facing a failure of the young Nation. The Baltimore Convention of 1786 called for a new way of government to be formulated in 1787 and the acute dreams of liberty and freedom embodied in the Articles of Confederation had demonstrated that our Nation could not be run by such a system of government. The brink of failure was a near thing for this Nation and we do not appreciate how closely this entire endeavor would come to sudden, chaotic end. The drafting of a new Constitution to have a Federal system to replace the Confederal one, shifted negative energies into productive channels and the wide-ranging debate between 1787-1789 was the largest public debate on how people should govern themselves ever witnessed in human history. It was gripping as those founders that were in Philadelphia were giving tacit admission that their grandest view of liberty and freedom could not work for the common man. When the greatest State-based system for independence met up with the hard problem of economic debt incurred by the Nation, the system failed and miserably. Many of those drafters in Philadelphia were very grim, as they had helped put this disaster in place and felt a deep and abiding responsibility to rectify it so that their dreams of liberty and freedom could survive.

Those two years of debate then did the necessary job of starting to hash out the problems in this NEW system of government an the Bill of Rights was added, in the English form, so that there would be some basic statements of outlook on government that would get encoded into the system so that Federal government did not overstep its bounds. Amendments IX and X were revolutionary in that they inverted prior forms of Constitution in which government granted rights to the people and changed that so that the people granted rights to government and only those clearly and unequivocally stated in the Constitution and its Amendments. The problem of government is not that it is evil, but that it is a necessary evil as mankind does not live in a state of harmony and requires the works of man to survive to lead a good life and yet not be dictated to by government. From society comes government and from common government comes State and from shared State we get Nation to interact with all other Nations.

The idea behind the Nation State is the exact, same one embodied in the concept of Federalism: local control is best.

Distributed control for the greatest leeway amongst societies is best.

Diverse people have demonstrated that common government without that government turning oppressive is impossible.

That was a prime problem with the US Constitution, as it was already a diverse and geographically large Nation for its means of commerce and communication in 1787. The greatest stumbling block was not that of how to distribute power, but how to keep government in check and to stop it from repressing liberty and freedom. No set of checks and balances will work if the people are lulled into singing along with the Siren as the Ship of State heads towards the rocky shoreline and demise of common effort by things that 'seem good' but, when put into the hands of that necessary evil called government, turns into a lash upon the individual and the destruction of liberty and freedom by government to its own ends. Thus the lesson learned from the Confederation, that oppressive debt of a Nation must be shared, was inverted by those that had an idea that the National government could, indeed, bring prosperity. That strange inversion was one that had a clear problem: it caused a Revolution as prosperity for the Mother Country did not mean prosperity for her Citizens abroad. The start of the Anti-Colonial era did not begin between WWI and WWII, but in1776. Unfortunately the message took awhile to get out and the lumbering beast of Colonial Empire continued forward even with a piece of lead having gone through its brain. Make no mistake about it: National government had demonstrated a marked lack and inability to ensure prosperity for all under its domain.

Many point to the era of Colonial Empire and are wistful for it. They will tout all the 'good' brought to people in far domains by dominion over them, that civilization spread via that influence. This is even *true*. The cost of having unequal opportunity via those regimes is disparity in outcome, so that even the richest of far-flung potentates under such a regime are *still* second class citizens with limited rights and freedoms. America does not need to look abroad for such lessons, as that period under the Confederation demonstrated a similar social stratification between the rich and ruling in the cities and the poor and indebted in the countryside. Having the keys to government and levying taxes was a boon to those in power, and those that were poor soon found themselves in prison if they had any property at all. Those who followed the path of Alexander Hamilton to robust government intrusion into the economy then made their own, foolish mistake to emphasize this point of the rich and privileged making the working man suffer in the formulation of the National Bank.

The cozy and corrupt relationship that the National Banks had with the Federal government led to corruption and favoritism by *law* for the bank and against the people. Mind you, this is after centuries of Mercantilism and Feudalism having demonstrated that the cozy relationship between the Crown and those favored by it make for a disharmony between government and the people. The magic boon of liberty and freedom was and is not enough to counter the ability to turn a necessary evil into an absolute one for personal gain. Yet there was wisdom in the grant by Congress to the National Banks that required them to be re-approved on a regular basis, because it was understood that no created vehicle of government that skirted the edge of the allowed could not go unchecked and lose popular consent and have no easy means to remove it when it went from necessary to absolute evil.

This, too, had been brought up during the Years of Ratification, and yet that discussion was also forgotten by many then and completely by now in public discourse.

Yet, there was President Jackson who abided by the Constitution and the wisdom behind it. I have written about his view of what the Presidency is and how government serves the people, and not up on a platter, either. In one of the lengthiest veto messages ever produced, President Jackson went through how government, the economy, the Nation's ability to defend itself, its responsibility on foreign trade and how accountability is best distributed in a fashion that makes the ideas present by later economic thinkers to be in accord with him, although he is never cited as one of the great proponents of those ideas. He is more than willing to abide by the Constitutional powers given to government, the laws as they have been decided by the Supreme Court and not only his duties but respect for the duties of the other branches of government for any law creating any Bank concern that cares the imprimatur of the United States government. He made sure Congress knew of the problems that needed to be addressed a year in advance so that it could remedy the problems of corruption, banks gaining money via exchange while citizens lost money via exchange, and the pernicious problem of having so much working capital under foreign control. He would be more than willing to run any bank that met those criteria.

Congress could not do that and the Bank was Vetoed, and it even withstood a new Administration after Jackson's that had been *for* the Bank.

A lesson of government interference via positive control over the economy had been recognized.

Government could not assure prosperity, and yet the Nation, with its ups and downs, would prosper, grow and become an industrial powerhouse by the end of the 19th century. That was done by giving a fair and even playing field in economic realms to the people and favoring none. The season that followed, after the harsh winter and cold snap in late spring called The Civil War, then led to a marshy, wet time of prosperity, where land was opened, rail lines put down and cities grew to support that industry. By all accounts that population, even without those pushing for sobriety, was swearing off of hard liquor and heading towards beer, by the gallons per individual per year. Patent medicines and the wide-spread application of various new medications did lead to many being addicted, too, but the last balm of government as steward in the food and drug purity acts had started that in decline as informed citizens will not ingest such things in such vast quantities. If we have a 'drug problem' today, just picture the situation in the 1880's where there were more addicts, more and harder liquor and a Nation filled with trying to build itself up and laying down the infrastructure that would power it into the next century. Somehow they achieved that with what, today, we would consider ruinous levels of addiction and inebriation. The effort to control those things by government was seen as 'Modern' and 'Progressive', and yet were the same restrictive and anti-liberty ideas that this Nation had established itself to prevent.

An ill-guided effort to enforce morals from government gave us super-powered organized crime that built itself from the ill-gotten gains of prohibited liquor. The government, itself, would find those in power who pushed for the old 'restrictions' on government to be relaxed as this was, after all, the 'Modern Era'. Surely, we could do with some economic guidance of government in the economy, right? Prohibition was repealed, when it became evident that no one respected morals dictated by government. Unfortunately the Federal Reserve, the modern incarnation of the National Bank concept, would not and was actually joined by more intrusion by government in the economy. Still that economic powerhouse laid down by our inebriated and addicted ancestors ploughed through the drags on it put in place by government and powered through the Great Depression until the staggering load placed upon the economy by government caused it to falter and the Recession of 1937-38 was the result. All the lovely ornaments on the fast moving vehicle caused it to stall out just when it was gaining speed. The only cure for government intrusion was *more* intrusion to fight a world war: America was 'saved' from her ill-thought out 'Modern' and 'Progressive' ideas by having a huge section of the productive workforce fighting overseas, and every last man and woman left working in the factories and industry. That made things 'better' so that the return to normalcy after the war, and the pent up spending between 1942 to 1945 was unleashed in a huge groundswell that masked the things government had done in the 1930's.

The lending policies of the Federal Reserve at the start of the economic decline contributed, in no small part, to the sudden collapse in the private sector. Government did, indeed, have positive control, but to negative impact. Government then foisted more positive control, in name of the common good, and nearly killed the recovery. Then government saved itself by removing the productive working class, paying them wages overseas that could not be spent in the economy all too easily, and then put the less skilled and abled to work to support the war effort. Those may have been necessary things to do, after the Nation was attacked, but that does not allow us to forget that these things had impact upon the Nation's economy and industry. The Cold War that followed saw a Nation transformed, economically, but put in place via education and lobbying interests, the idea that government positive control in the economy is in any way 'good'. All of the problems with positive control being 'good' were clearly, and definitively demonstrated by the USSR and China: they had absolute positive control over their economies and they ruined those and their people. Russia has always had that problem, with the Czars mandating industry and other lovely things, while China has had centralized rule for centuries since the founding of China by the Chin Dynasty. Russia was a poor, third world country, as we would call it today, with ability to exploit millions and achieve a little. China had the lesson of 'expediency' down pat, and the first thing Mao did to end the drug trade was to execute all of those in it... and their families, just to get the point home.

Thus when the United States, with its control in the economy from government, faced down Nations that had absolute control over their economies, we were no longer in a position to offer the clear and decisive choice between economic systems. It was somewhat controlled private capitalism, with positive control by the State or State capitalism with absolute control by the State. The idea of somewhat controlled capitalism that had some necessary social overhead, but no positive governmental control was not on the table. Worse, still, was piling on 'good things' for this positive control to accomplish in the way of health care, extensive laws on how government wanted things run and an increasing bureaucracy that was soon putting in place restrictions that those in the 19th century would not only call ill-guided, but repressive. Two-thirds of all regulations in the US were put down since 1972, and that is a growing problem as everything gains 'positive oversight' to the point of having no effect save to make laws that no one knows about and yet everyone is liable to know. Actually reading the federal regulations is a lengthy task and would take up a bookshelf six feet long of hard bound books with very small type... that was before it was put on CD.

It is amended monthly.

You are to keep up with that.

That is the effect of positive control of government in the economy: it restricts freedom, liberty and makes everyone liable to break multiple laws they can't even find nor know about before-hand unless they have some specialty in that area of endeavor. And those folks are still liable for the rest of it, to. Now we have come to the point where government seeks to 'bail out' failing parts of the economy. Thus the bucket brigade is set up and no one bothers to address the holes that point to missing parts of the economy in the hull of the State. Instead they want to support the rust at the edges of the hole...

Who would not love free money? Banks want it. So do car companies. Unions, can't leave their spendthrift ways behind, now, can we? School systems! Ski resorts, yes those poor folks facing an economic downturn with few customers... so sad, no? Public employee unions facing lack of pension funds! The State of California, it is too big to fail now, isn't? So is Michigan, and it has the auto companies, not that there is any relation between the huge taxes locally in Michigan and failing car companies, nosiree bob! Home builders, yes those poor folks pushing poor regulation to skew good economic accounting, then must NEED a bail out. Home mortgage companies, especially those that backed lobbyists to get the asinine regulations in place, well they have shown such wisdom in ruining a good sector of the economy lets give *them* a second chance to finish the job, right?

And, by damn, a lump of coal is vilified so everyone must get presents.

Pretty soon we will need that coal to heat our power plants to keep us alive.

Government will be so nice to hand out money to those who should have known better that you, my fellow citizen, will be impoverished into equality to help the cronies of those in power.

Because they are represented in Upon the Hill.

You are not.

That power will be felt in taxation which the 'Progressives' also wanted for National government to hand out unequally.

What was that about the founding?

'No Taxation Without Representation'?

That caused a Revolution.

10% dead.

15% fled.

Our bed is being made.

Soon we will find 'Modern' is as repressive as 'Ancient', just spiffed up a bit.

Perhaps we can remember that everything 'positive' is not good when handed to necessary evil.

Before we must lie in our bed, again and fight.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Private War the scourge we call terrorism and piracy

The following was originally presented on 27 NOV 2008 at Dumb Looks Still Free.

This is a topic I have written on multiple times, looking at the definition of terrorism being from the same root that piracy comes from:  one seeks pure power via war means the other seeks cash.  Terrorists attack at sea using the means of private war: they have attacked French tankers, Egyptian freighters and warships of the United States and Israel.  The groups doing that go by names like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas.  The use boats to raid beach resorts, they board ships to take hostages and they see no reason not to use the weapons of war against civilians.  The currency of pirates is money, the currency of terrorists is power to intimidate, to threaten, to destroy that which they don't like... one is paid in gold the other in blood.  If the first is bad the second is horrific and far worse than mere piracy as those doing such actions place themselves against society and Nations to rule as they will outside of any law.  Both are outlaws in the truest sense: placing themselves outside all frameworks of civilized law and reclaiming the negative liberty of warfare to themselves.

When society and civilization starts to crumble, the opportunist predators appear.  If you laugh at them when they do not have the means, you are terrified and bleed when they do.  Yet their credo is ancient, going back to the roots of what it means to be civilized and no matter what their names, nationalities, ethnicity, 'causes', or beliefs, they come down to the same tactics described since the days before there were Nations, and yet there were still States.  We forget that Captain Morgan was viewed as a pirate by Spain even when his most notable attack was on LAND.  He had writ, justification and no knowledge that a peace treaty had been signed, so those at home first viewed him as a pirate for a land based attack on Spanish towns and fortifications.  Yes a person waging private war with his confederates is waging piracy on land, there is no difference between sea and land in the view of Nations, even though we have done much damage to ourselves to tell ourselves that piracy is only by sea.  It was not that way after the Fall of Troy, was not that way up to the early 20th century and is not that way to this very day.  The United States once had a leader who clearly told the troops what to do with those who waged terrorism and why, and he is revered by all parts of the political spectrum and yet we cannot learn the wisdom he signed off on for the troops:

Art. 82.

Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities, whether by fighting, or inroads for destruction or plunder, or by raids of any kind, without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers - such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and, therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates.

That is a rule for the US Army that was kept for 30 years and infringes on no treaty, no convention and no other view of civilization amongst Nations as it *is* the civilized view *of* Nations what these individuals are.  That President in that era committed the US forces to treat these individuals as described with summary treatment from the battlefield without recourse, review or other appeal.  That was not injustice, but battlefield justice and it was in General Order 100:


Prepared by Francis Lieber, promulgated as General Orders No. 100 by President Lincoln, 24 April 1863.

The Great Emancipator, the President who Saved the Union, the man who so many point to as wise and honest, forthright in his term and stature was the one who sent the troops with that as a General Order, on land and sea, and it was kept into the 1890's.  Yet it contravenes neither the Hague nor Geneva conventions as those only cover civilians and uniformed military.  It is for Nations and citizens to respect and cross at their peril, and those who are neither, who take up war on their own, have little recourse to civil law in the battlefield or when picked up by those fighting in war.  This was recognized by President Jefferson as a necessary duty and function of the President: to protect the Nation by those who would wage war but be part of no Nation and have no commission or reason to wage war outside of the Nation State framework.  President Jackson sent the first US vessel around the world... it was a warship, the USS Potomac, and it was sent to the Malays to deal with those who were pirates and terrorists.  President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the Moro Insurrection to be put down as they were under no aegis of any Nation to fight as they did.

Each of these Presidents knew what their duty was and knew how to deal with those who had backing of no Nation to seek war on their own against the United States.  These are not wilting flower Presidents:  Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt.  They made no excuses for those that were uncivilized and practiced war to their own ends against not only the US but against all Nations.  That was their duty abroad - to use their Commander in Chief and Head of State powers to confront those who would tear at the fabric of international law and civilized intercourse amongst Nations to their own benefit no matter what their goals were.  While many decry ill-war amongst Nations, they raise no voice of action against those threatening the very international security they espouse.  These people who wish to confront no one, at any time, at any place and seek to excuse any action taken against civilization are seeking to submit themselves and their fellow citizens to rule by terror, rule by force, rule by war.  In decrying war they invite it by showing they have no standards to actually stand for: they seek to lie down with the lion and be the sacrificial lamb that the lion will see as his fair share for the taking.  There are no 'moderates' amongst those that take back to the Law of Nature: they are immoderate in the extreme and acting in an uncivilized way.

We see this amongst leaders who talk of 'humanitarian grounds' for those who commit ruthless acts of violence using the weapons of war (Source: Independent UK), even in the face of the families who were hurt by such groups coming to ask for justice and law to exist to keep such terrorists from facing no day of reckoning for their crimes.  Another terrorist convicted of killing 9 and attempting to kill 11 more, is now to be on 'parole' for his actions against society and his Nation (Source: Irish Times).  It does not matter if they are Red Brigades or Red Army Faction: they sought to undermine Nations with their attacks and had no backing to take up the weapons of war against anyone.  There is no difference in kind between these groups and their people and those of the Islamic world or those still tearing at Nations to this day.

Now we are faced with expansion of terror networks abroad due to one Nation that has fostered it in their own borders, often through negligence and many times through willing cooperation.  Pakistan has a long history of this, terrorism is an outgrowth of their older cultures that seek to place personal war amongst tribal leaders to meet their own ends.  Today those groups that started out with a single 'cause' now have a grievance list miles long, and it comes down to one, single thing: they will kill to terrorize society, tear it down and seek to gain power as society crumbles.  This is a codified view of one of those groups, named al Qaeda, that has its view put forward in that those that disagree with it, who are to be beaten down into submission are 'savages' to them.  Others take up that exact, same methodology when they seek private war on land or at sea, and have no good in store for citizens of any Nation.

Today the attacks in India and Afghanistan demonstrate that the hotbed of terror is no longer *just* in the Middle East, but has many tendrils and many organizations and many heads to it.  If FARC goes down in Colombia, others already exist in South America to take their place and continue their ways, even if not as lucratively it will be done.  These terror attacks in India are sourced to these networks that are international and transnational, even when they have 'nationalist' heads to them.  The attacks based upon religion is something that Western Europe gave up after the 30 Years War with Westphalia, and yet others do not see that as 'civilized' and use religion as an excuse to kill the innocent.  And yet, when you confront them, there are those that seek not to and to excuse killing and justify it.  They are more than cowards: they hate society and civilization and will not say any word against those taking up private arms to kill without commission, without warrant, without any authority over them to seek a just end to such violence as a Nation would do.

Further these same people, those seeking a more 'humanitarian' way forward have crippled the recourse to keep international systems accountable: they weaken the legal system and seek to excuse any action so as to blame society for the ills of the individual.  Even when it is the individual exploiting those ills to their own ends and seeking to be held unaccountable.  That is the hard part of this: tearing apart the criminal and terrorist networks that have cross-integrated, cross-trained and support each other fully now.

Yet we used to have a clear and concise understanding of what to do with these types of people and organizations.  Even when they struck from shadows, and hid in civilian guise to exploit Nations, they could be found and retribution handed out.  That way of war those that are 'humanitarian' want no part of: the simple deployment of civilians under National commission to go after these groups on the foundation our ancestors put in place.  It was simple and well understood at the founding and Congress given those powers, which had been understood for generations if not thousands of years previously.  Hugo Grotius would write on those things and come up with the necessary limits of civilian law and yet the need for society to know that harm done to it had been returned in kind on a one-for-one basis as seen in On The Laws of War and Peace

That work and others by Grotius would join with pre-existing works to form new ones that would define what the Law of Nations was and how Nations, like England, had a common law in agreement to it.  It was from there that the foundation of the United States came:  from old Roman Law given international distribution, through a man caught up in the 30 Years War seeking to know what the causes of war and peace were along with the laws of the sea, and then later members of the Enlightenment finally putting these things down so that all would know, in any Nation, what Nations were and how they all conform to that same outlook.  If you haven't been taught these things, if you haven't read them then you are ignorant of them, and are uninformed as to how our world worked to give us what we have today.  They can be lengthy works, even in translation, yet their reading level is not high and none are beyond what can be taught in a week.

How can anything relating to those willing to tear down societies and Nations be regarded as 'humanitarian'?  Simply, it can't, as these are individuals who have returned to the state of nature on their own and are seeking uncivilized means to gain their way, be it for profit or power.  Those that serve them, help them, excuse them are complicit in this work.  It is not 'civilized' to be 'humanitarian' towards vicious and brutal outlaws seeking to destroy the system of Nation States.  That is complicity in barbarism.  When civil justice is applied to those waging war on their own, it lacks the power and depth to address the horror of their activities.  They take up the weapons of war and only, only if they put them down and hold themselves accountable TO the law can they be said to be seeking a civil end of their barbaric ways.  They accept the judgment of civil law by doing that.  Captured fighting they are not 'prisoners of war' but brutal savages willing to kill and due summary judgment on the battlefield without recourse to higher power: they are known for their deeds and actions, thus they are defined by them and not their words, not their 'reasons' and not their 'grievances'.  They have civil means to get these things addressed and WILL NOT TAKE THEM.

These are the opportunistic predators showing up on weak society and weakened civilization.  Being civil requires recourse and that recourse is via civil means to address such individuals and groups.  When their actions go warlike, they are willingly taking to war against Nations and all lawful citizens, no matter where they live.  We have means as a civilization to address them not *just* by civil means, although that is necessary, but by the means of war both Public and Private given sanction by civil means.  That is the strength of civilization: recognizing when it is being threatened and using the accountable means to address these barbarians.  Those we confront as a totality of civilization will follow no rules, no law and seek to evade justice.  We know that by their actions.  There is no nobility in being 'humanitarian' to such for they see it as weakness to exploit.

As I see the blood and flames in India, Afghanistan and from many points around the world, I see a deep and lax civilization dying and the parasites already proliferating to eat on this once proud thing we held in common.  It once protected us and we deemed it good and restrained by civil means, a bulwark to keep us alive and the intercourse between Nations civil.  When we give it other things to do, strap it down with all sorts of 'good' things that distract it from that ability to protect us, we are then shocked that our protection goes down and that the killers roam many lands and seas without recourse.  In festooning the Nation State with so much power, it becomes immobile at powerless as it cannot do all things at all times well.  Soon it begins to lose the ability to protect, to enforce laws and ensure that the lawless are addressed.

That is the time we are now in.

Give more to the Nation State at your peril.

For the next thing you give it will be the able to restrict good and imprison those that disagree with it.

That is when all those 'good things' become ill and the protector turns into the punisher unbound by civil restraints.

Look at Mumbai, today, and see the outcome of generations of being 'nice' and 'humanitarian' and of Nations unwilling to keep governments to doing only a few, vital things to protect society.

We had a choice of confrontation and calling barbarism for what it is.

We haven't as a society, a Nation and as humanity.

Now we pay.

In blood.