Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decades of horror

Andy Serwer at Time has a strange take on the decade of 2000-2009, calling it A Decade From Hell.  The gloom and doom and self-inflicted wounds that he propounds and expounds upon does not have the taste of Hell to them, however, only somewhat of the hinterlands of Purgatory and self-inflated idealism come to rest on rocky shores of reality.  To my mind there are at least four ten-year time spans that are worse, far worse, than 2000-2009, and yet no real mention of them.  Without history for perspective we can easily become self-obsessed with the present, as individuals and a Nation, and the bemoaning of those ills we created for ourselves that were highly predictable and took decades of neglect and outright deceit to perpetrate does no one any good without that larger lens of the American Experience.

Assuredly those self-inflicted wounds, like the Community Reinvestment Act and its follow-ons starting during the Carter Administration, point to a deep and abiding misunderstanding of markets, money and human nature.  If we bemoan the end of the free ride of the Housing Bubble, then let us not forget its origin decades before this most recent.  The problem with banking was not an outgrowth of just Glass-Steagall being repealed, and the previous S&L crisis of the '80s should have pointed to this being something of the nature of the banking beast.  What spurred both on were regulations passed by Congress via the instrument of most unwise attribution of authority created just a little under a century before the present: the Federal Reserve.  That institution has gotten multiple banking problems, the housing bubble, and two recessions exactly WRONG in its prescriptions, and yet we hear not a peep of its role that it played in influencing regulators year on year, decade upon decade.  Similarly FHA, Fannie and Freddie get bare mention with regards to how Congress wanted more money to pour out of them and into the housing market, and even to the 'under privileged' without an income, a job or assets.  Those, of course, are actual regulations put in place that made things worse, not better, and so get glossed over.

Even the 'we have not kept up our infrastructure' is misplaced, as multiple decades of neglect took to get here with NO setting aside of funds for repair and maintenance that matched the bills coming due, year on year.  We bear fault for that, too, as we do for housing and banking, as our culture was extremely inward looking and willing to procrastinate, putting of necessary expenditures to retain what we had and now find we are losing what we have not retained.  Poor us!  And yet that, too, points back to the 1950's through to the 1990's as a problem point that structural and civil engineers told us about in budget meetings each and every year.  Since there was no big, bad wolf, we, as a culture, decided that we didn't need to maintain ourselves and our equipment against the creep of decay.  That is a bill for willful ignorance and suppression of reality by belief, not of single decade's making.  Of course before that America was used to building and revamping infrastructure, not just mere maintenance, but that, too, gets to go under the bridge.  Perhaps, just perhaps, when America is vibrant and outward looking, we take in stride the cost of maintenance as we build afresh... only when we turn inwards can we easily forget the cost of maintaining what we have.

Terrorism!  Ah, how quickly Mr. Serwer forgets the Barbary Pirates and the need to upbraid them as done by President Jefferson, or the Islamic Pirates of President Jackson's day who threatened our Far East commercial shipping and got a warship in response.  We had taken World Wars and Public War to be All War and forgot, by willful design and neglect, that the worst wars of all in mankind's history are Private Wars that signal the decay of Nations, Empires and simple States.  Terrorism in the modern mode started in the 1960's with 'State Sponsored' but 'hands clean' terrorism performed by Communists.  Che Guevara was a brutal, torturing killer who met a harsh end for practicing his killing and torture upon the poor to beat them into submission in a foreign land, and yet is he reviled by one and all as a beast, a monster?  Heavens no!  A segment of our population holds him up as an ICON!  The first hijacking of note happened when the PLO joined up with one of these Central American Red groups to hijack a plane in Panama, I believe it was, in the late 1960's and yet little was done about it.  Similarly Shining Path, FARC, various Red Factions/Armies/Groups, and then radical Islam like Islamic Jihad groups sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood and 'State Sponsored' Hezbollah with its Iranian sugar daddy would wage more and more violent private war year on year, extracting a civilian death toll that, while small, was becoming global.  Soon would come 'Eco-Terrorists' and even rogue fashion designers set to wage their war upon all mankind to Get Their Way.  One would think the US Marines killed in Beirut would have woken us up, if the betrayal of the Law of Nations by Iran just a couple of years previously had not done so.  Even once the USSR went defunct, some groups it spawned would continue and do continue to this day, waging their war upon us although not in the numbers like al Qaeda, the presence of them bespeaks our lax attitude towards our own civilization:  we don't care about it enough to keep it.

So if this is not THE WORST DECADE in US history, what tops it?

To my mind the next up the list, but by no means the worst is:


The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, The Rise of Fascism and the rise of the capitalized first letter of important words as a means of reinforcing things.

Coming in under Progressive President Hoover and going out under Progressive President Roosevelt, this decade witnessed men in the stock market plunging out of windows to their deaths in 1929-30, and continued through to 1939.  The over-inflated 'Roaring 20s' went pop on a big scale, and misguided monetary and banking policy set the stage for the worst decline in America in over 50 years.  This decade, too, had decades to build up to it and the mistaken belief that the active role of government is 'good' with respect to the common man was greatly espoused even while the 'recovery' policies steadily entrenched the Huge Recession into a Great Depression.  All the lovely things put in place to 'help' included huge business taxes that came about to 'help' the elderly and give retirement 'benefits' at the expense of government and the working class.  Just as the recovery of 1937 got started, those taxes hit and caused the recession of 1938-39, and employment would require a World War for the Nation to get back to anything like 'normal'.

The catastrophe of the Great Plains had been decades in brewing, and easy lending policy for farmers to break up the soil of the mid-west and western States during a time of relative plenty in rainfall, would cause a disaster when the rains didn't come.  Single storms with thousands of tons of dust that was once soil would shift that soil permanently from where it was and head eastward, and even darken the skies in NY City, Boston and Washington DC.  Any comparison between that and the decades of government encouragement for those in dry land areas to use up underground aquifers that take centuries to recharge is intentional.  Perhaps this time Big Agribusiness will suffer what the small farmer of the 1930's suffered during the Dustbowl, but don't bet on it with the way politics and money flows these days.

And while we bemoan modern terrorists, we forget the militant Statists of the post-WWI era that became exemplified by the Fascist and Nazi movements in Europe.  America had its off-shoots directly in Fascist groups and even the American Bund which suffered warm/cold relations with their cousins in Germany.  The prospect of mass rallies and beatings in a few places does pale in comparison to terrorist killers, although when one examines the end of the Great States of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, we come to realize that the death toll from organized State killers really does dwarf what terrorists can normally aspire to.  It is very strange that some of the killers of the 1930's get lauded today, others castigated and some given a 'free pass' by their modern counterparts.  Also we forget that Mein Kampf translated into Arabic is Jihad.  But pointing that out would be rubbing those trying to appease terrorists into the folly of what they do, and just like the 1930's we 'can't have that, now, can we?' is the order of the day.

Can we really forget the run on the banks and then the crooks coming in to give the banks a run for their money?  Yet the FDIC was supposed to fix that for our modern time, but it is going insolvent unable to cover deposits and now requiring banks pay, months in advance, for deposits not yet made.  We exchange the Tommy Gun for the Tyrannical Might of Government to steal from our banks for 'our own good'.  Such a sweet protection racket would not pass muster during normal times, but was a welcome alternative during the 1930's.  How little did we expect that all protection rackets must come back to bite us, and this one was started as a 'good idea' in the 1930's and now begins to fail us for the exact, same thing it was supposed to stop.  Broken banks by crime or government are still broken banks, and our trust in the institutions and in the 'regulators' supposed to 'protect us' was supposed to be an unalloyed good from the 1930's.  So, too, was the FHA which, in its ability to get regulations to be lax and spread its market power around, was supposed to ease the housing problems of the poor, not give expensive homes to those who could not afford them.  Apparently there is no 'good thing' that government can't ruin when it allows that federal beast that runs the regulations to write the regulations and influence the regulations and decide upon the regulations.  Are we sure this isn't a form of the Mafia?

What is even grander is that those lovely federal devices set up in the 1930's didn't help the people THEN, either.  Social Security, FDIC, FHA, and SEC all failed to 'turn things around' and even caused a deepening of the Great Depression by taking needed cash out of the economy and funneling it into that non-productive thing we call government.

Lest we forget, World War II started not in Poland but in Manchuria during the earlier part of the 1930's.  The US Navy drafted up a Plan Orange that looked at exactly how Japan could attack the US in Hawaii and Philippines in an attempt to cripple our Pacific Fleet and keep it stifled via submarine attacks.  That was long years before 1941, and while it was just one casebook, it is the most prescient that would tell of what an economically moribund Nation would signal to the Imperial Japanese military machine, a machine we supplied with much steel that was then used against us in the Second World War.  If the decade came in with the Great Stumble it went out with the Great Gasp in Poland and the world fully expected to have a repeat of World War I.  The world would not be so lucky, and yet that wouldn't have happened if appeasement was not the order of the day in the mid-1930's, and if America had a sane economic policy that would have just allowed the recovery to happen as it had in all previous downturns.  Instead we were too wise to be smart and too smart to be wise.

Horrible, no?

Yet that is only the next worse up the scale, making our decade pale in comparison.  There is worse than that?  Oh, my, yes!


I have written about this before in The 10 years that change the path of America, and it is an unexpected decade that most of us don't understand or discount far too easily.  Yet the roots of much of the 1930's happens right in this ten year, or so, time span, where the woes of our modern times can find its deep roots in the Progressive Era of politics and the belief that we really can change the Nature of Man via government fiat.

Of course many of the bad farming practices were already ongoing by now, but the continuation of them and the easy land and money policies that were started previously were continued.  Even worse the Federal Reserve was created to help 'stabilize' the currency and now we have seen, since its creation, that our currency has lost 95% of its value since that time.  If you think a 'strong dollar' of a decade or so ago was something, imagine it having 8x the buying power as it did in the era before the Federal Reserve and its ever so unwise policies.  That was a strong dollar!  Nothing government couldn't change, of course, in order to 'spread the wealth around'.

To that end the Progressives sought and got disproportional taxation, which is to say that each citizen was not charged a set price to run the government, which the States gathered, but could be taxed DIRECTLY from the US government in any proportion the government chose.  A simple Constitutional Amendment change the absolute equality of all taxpayers to a graduated deal, where some would be valued and taxed more than others.  The the Federal Reserve could be made flush with funds from 'the rich'!  Luckily those very same 'rich' also got the windfalls of having government support unwise lending policies via the Federal Reserve, and crony capitalism in its modern form gained a US face.  If you hate the payouts of government to Big Business, then look for disproportional taxation and crony capitalist politics as its cause.  While it was assuredly there before, the money amounts involved were generally small and that only grew when government could grow.

On the personal liberty front, the US government decided that it could start using parts of the Constitution to dictate our lives to us, and started with the Harrison Stamp Act on marijuana.  The government could, indeed, mandate tax stamps for a product, in which you had to have the product to get them... but if you had the product without the stamp you were committing a federal crime.  And Congress never had any of the stamps issued.  That proved to be a perfectly acceptable power-grab by the US Congress and we have lived with the expansion of Congressional powers since that era.  Yet that era was ushered in with the weakening of control over Congress when the lovely Progressives allowed for the direct election of Senators from States, instead of them being appointed by the State Governments.  That little restriction was getting in the way of expanding government as some States didn't send Senators to DC, which meant that government bills would get waylaid until the States could be convinced to send someone to vote on them.  That is how the system is SUPPOSED to work, but because 'fast and efficient' government is not the hallmark of a representative democracy, it is what the Progressives and their supporters wanted and got from the gullible public.  The expansive power of Congress begins in this era and we live with its ramifications to this day in more taxes, more regulations and more power concentrated into fewer hands than ever before in the US.  If you bemoan the problems of officious government on drugs, the point is not lost that before the Progressive Era there were NO federal drug laws on the books and you had the absolute freedom to decide what you took and when.  The only change happened for the Food & Drug Purity Act which mandated ingredient labels and for the few short years before making them illegal, consumption went DOWN as people realized how drugged up they were.  Government would soon decide that for you, however, so that those with horrifically painful fatal illnesses couldn't get addictive painkillers for their short span left on Earth.

This was made no better by the US Congress deciding to fix its own size and no longer have a floating proportional representation system.  'Gerrymandering' had happened before, to a certain extent, but this single chain made it a permanent landscape feature of the US political scene.  Just before that took place the Progressive Era marked a sea change in US politics from one where the electorate went from throwing the bums out of DC to the extent that it was rare that 30% ever got BACK per session, to one in which it was rare that 30% ever got tossed out at all.  The creation of the fixed size Congress to 'streamline' and 'make Congress manageable' ignored the salient feature that Congress in the House of Representatives was supposed to be unmanageable, volatile and see a high turn-over rate.  By demographics alone, small districts would see change-outs of Representatives frequently and yet the number of Representatives expanded via population expansion, thus allowing deep rooted representative democracy to take hold.  That got uprooted in 1911 and has remain unchallenged until a recent court case now working its way through the system.  It is amazing to think that the House can set its own size, pay rate, goodies, perks, dividends and never have any of that called into question for nearly a century.  If we bemoan Incumbistan, then the roots of it must be brought to light and the corruption that comes with a fixed size Congress also brought to light.  Not that those wanting more power for the State ever want you to hear that.

On the grounds of wartime spending, do ponder that the last million man army in Europe at the end of World War I was that of the United States.  And that as a part of our GDP, that military machine dwarfs our modern contingents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere on bases around the globe.  World War One would leave the industrial powers in Europe dwarfed by the US, and yet the US did not fight in any but a restricted fashion just against Germany and not against the corrupt Austro-Hungarian allies of Germany nor the rump of the Ottoman Empire which Britain had to fight on its lonesome and which had been committing genocide just prior to the war.  A genocide reported to President Woodrow Wilson.  President Wilson didn't want to interfere with Turkey because we had such good trade relationships with it, and that we might be able to reform Turkey via that trade.  What that meant is that the US did not fully participate in the War and that at the end of the war we were not at the 'Adult Table' to help determine the aftermath of the war.  France and Britain had already decided the landscape of Europe, the Middle East and Africa to a large extent by the end of 1918, and President Wilson's grand vision of a 'League of Nations' was something he couldn't even get the US Senate to buy into.  That dream, along with the post-war accords, would seed the world with divisions, Germany would fester for over a decade and the secular Turkish State would divide up Kurdistan so that the Kurds would never have a Nation that was guaranteed them by the post-war US agreements that they had signed on to.  By not realizing that to be considered a 'Major Power' one must act like it and go after all the allies of an enemy, President Wilson's idea of fighting a limited war would plant and water the seeds for the next World War.  Talk about ill-spent funds!

During that war was something that can only be accounted as the most draconian curtailment of free speech ever seen in the US, even granted what happened in the next worst up from this.  The delusion that is propagated about President Wilson being such a great-hearted fellow belies the fact that he deployed tens of thousands... of agents in America as part of the 'Blue Eagle' campaign to buy goods that were certified as ok by the US government and report ANYONE speaking against the war, the President, Congress, the government.... many of the Progressive allies of President Wilson found themselves in jail when they attempted to use their free speech rights to speak up against what was going on.  At the same time the government was distributing officially sanctioned songs, reading material, eating schedules and even lullabyes for infants.  Without a sense of any perspective, our modern critics don't realize that what is being done to find al Qaeda personnel is within the traditional war powers of a President, while those exercised by President Wilson were not and are not.  If things were as bad as they were then, most of dKos and DU and other Leftists would be in jail, not walking around freely to criticize everyone and everything to their heart's content.  Imprisonment for free speech is not an answer then or now, but bemoaning communications intercepts with foreign individuals is something that is NOT protected under the US Constitution.  That power was exercised by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and over-stepped by President Wilson to a large degree.  Thus on this front the awfulness of the last decade comes up very, very short of any mark by any rational person.

You would think that these things, the massive spending by the US on WWI, the change of Congress to radically alter and remove its checks and increase its powers, the increased powers and how they were used, the restriction of civil liberties by President Wilson, the Armenian Genocide that President Wilson did nothing to address, the horrible state of affairs left after WWI... that this decade just might have gotten a bit of recognition as being a bit on the bad side.  Apparently not, and that is to our detriment that we forget these things and take them as 'business as usual' when, in fact, they are not usual to the Republic and caused a serious of changes that resulted in most of our modern woes in banking and the unrestricted power Congress would come to wield over our daily lives.  Instead we get dead silence save for a very few that dare talk about just how bad this era was, particularly the war years.

Next up is a decade that really does rate much, much higher in everyone's books if you but take a moment to think about it.


The US Civil War and period of Reconstruction.

Apparently Mr. Serwer forgot about the millions dead in the Civil War and the problems of Reconstruction.

Remember that little thing?  At least 618,000 dead due to battle and the diseases that followed it?  This was not a good decade for the US no matter which way you cut it.  You would think that just on that basis, alone, that we might get just a teensy bit of perspective on our modern era, but apparently, not.

It also had the emancipation of the slaves, and allowed for a large shift of populations in the post-war era.  The devastation of the South, however, left the economies there in dire straights for decades.  Additionally the general feeling was that the post-war governments were imposed on the population, which would lead to hard feelings that still last up to the present day in some areas of the South.

Really no single article can cover the devastation and human suffering the US went through over the decade that contained the Civil War.  Our last decade is no 'Hell' in comparison to that decade: we fall far, far short of it no matter which direction you take.  In pure cash it was horrific and while the North would have a relatively intact industrial base, the South would be impoverished.  Civil Rights were largely suspended by President Lincoln in many areas due to having a war fought within the Nation, itself, but that gets scant mention these days.  War time profiteers on both sides make Halliburton into a piker for charging a couple of bucks to deliver a cold can of soda to our troops in the middle of nowhere in Iraq or Afghanistan.  We don't have companies sending shoes made for undertakers to our troops, only to find them made of cardboard and falling apart nearly instantly.

The blood spilled for the freedom of all men in society, no matter their race, has been forgotten by our modern era, and we pay no homage to the dead who fought on both sides in this gargantuan struggle to determine that all men really ARE created equal and endowed with certain, inalienable rights.  Purposely forgetting the struggle and its outcome, and remembering its scale does a grave disservice to our honored dead who fought for what they believed in.

What is even more humorous is that those on the Left and Socialists forget that Karl Marx supported the NORTH in this effort as Capitalism was far superior to any slave based agrarian economy and that Capitalism must do its good work of getting the best efficiency so as to emancipate man from abject slavery of the old agrarian sort.  Relative wage slavery is far, far preferable to true slavery and leaves the individual with many choices for their wages and a chance for betterment leading towards a better society.  For all the embrace of the modern Left for some socialist ideals, they forget that basic principle: that Capitalism of the free market sort is far better than State Capitalism, State slavery or agrarian slave based systems of any sort.  This should have been driven home during the US Civil War, but somehow has been missed by the over-educated, under-learned Left of our modern era.

The years 2000-2009 a 'Hell'?

The next decade is highly telling and ranks as the worst in America for my taste.


The American Revolution.

Ten percent of Americans left dead at the end of it.

Fifteen percent of our population fled to other Crown colonies.

The economy devastated.

The first government created in 1776 coming undone and the Shaysites, as a larger movement, nearly overturning the Articles of Confederation as the State governments had impoverished the rural folk to the point of confiscating farms for back taxes and throwing farmers in jail.  All that due to war debt owed to France.

America failed at its very first government, and we are born of that failure.

If it had succeeded we would have no US Constitution but the Articles of Confederation, to this day.

Our government failed us.

Our political class failed us and were forced to rethink their positions which were destroying the lives and economy of the Nation.

The great civility that lasted through the Revolutionary War nearly came undone at the seams between urban and rural America.

2000-2009 as 'Hell'?

If our civility between urban and rural unravels, if the political class of urban America thinks they can 'organize' rural and suburban America, then we may get to revisit this 1776-1786 era.

And the political class forced to rethink their positions.

Or else we may find ourselves one, fine Shays away from finding out what true 'Hell' really is.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Foundations of law

The following is a white paper of The Jacksonian party.

After spending some time examining the historical documents that examine the law in practice and its basis, I have determined that a better way to describe what our modern, civil law has become should start at a more practical level starting at the basis of what we are, as humans.  From there proceeding to our more modern views of law should give some basis for further understanding what the strengths, limitations and limits of our laws are.  To any who have read at this site, this is more a summary article than one breaking new ground and may be of little interest save in that summary basis.  As there are many aspects of the universe that can only be answered through venues of faith, philosophy and religion I must, necessarily, put those aspects of what the law is off, at least to the point where mankind can formulate those things.  With that said, and not to exasperate phenomenology practitioners, we must understand that we do, indeed, have a form, an existence and a basis of time and space that we experience.

The question of what time actually is, or space for that matter,  I have covered elsewhere when looking at the problems of science in science fiction.  Whatever the general basis for time is, as individuals we must live with the consequences of our actions taken and the universe also reflects that events have happened in one way and not another, albeit others are acceptable in scientific terms, they are not the ones we have to deal with.  Thus our basis is that of natural beings in a natural universe that has had a series of events, large and small, happen to it with the least of that measure being our time alive at the current moment.  As we are physical beings in a natural universe, we partake of the aspects of that universe covering everything from sub-atomic interactions to the motions of galaxies, all of the chemistry, physics and time related events are what we are to contend with.  That entire gamut of forces, energy, space and time are summed up under the concept of: Law of Nature.

This concept often comes with the tag line 'red of tooth and claw', and such is the Natural Universe and its Laws as they play no favorites.  Nature, like Justice, is blind, save that the tools of Nature trump those of Justice as something being 'Just' is a biased view of Nature and Nature, above all things, is unbiased in the whole.  One of the great and age-old questions is 'why do bad things happen to good people?' and never is asked 'why do good things happen to bad people?' or good to the good and bad to the bad.  While our presence in this universe of Natural Law is biased, in that we have personal bias towards certain ends, the universe, in its whole, doesn't care about that, about us or about Justice.  We flee from injustice aimed at us and head towards Nature as it is unbiased and we can craft survival on our own and worry about biased others as part of our greater survival needs.  When we are threatened with doom by unjust society, Nature in its even-handedness towards the Just and Unjust, alike, is preferable to injustice perpetrated upon us by others.  In trading the Tyrant for the Wolf, we go from a decidedly biased organization to one that is merely Natural and we understand that our status varies by our own hand and is determined by our skills, not by our value to a Tyrant.  Thus if we bemoan when 'bad things happen to good people' then we must also recognize the succor and relatively safety of Nature in being unbiased and without Justice.  We cannot cheer for the Partisan resisting Tyranny from Nature and then bemoan that Nature plays no favorites and visits ill upon the Just and Unjust alike, as well as good fortune upon both.

Survival in Nature requires working with what Nature does in the Laws of Nature, and then finding ways to mitigate the actions of Nature or use them to advantage.  Reproduction allows this and reproductive strategies have many facets for survival, although we are used to thinking that only one is best, that is the outcome of a long series of events that get to our using one method and being temporally successful in the present.  Yet examination of Nature shows that many other species use many different modes to reproduce, and they all have varying degrees of success and failure that cannot be predetermined as being successful in the future.  Thus plants give off pollen during their pollination season in the hopes that one, tiny, pollen grain will find its home in the receptive parts of another plant of the same species so as to fertilize it, and that then allows for a seedling to form, drop and suffer the vicissitudes of Nature.  It is not a guaranteed success, per plant, but for all plants it has proven to be a wonderful means of spreading species and causing allergies.  Many sea animals release thousands if not millions of egg to be fertilized by the sperm of their species counter-parts and then those eggs, fertilized and unfertilized, find their fate in Nature.  Some species find this to be ill-suited to survival and tend the eggs until they released a juvenile of their species, and for some that is the extent of their caring.  Fewer still will create bonds between themselves and a mate or their young, or both, so as to spend time and energy ensuring the survival of a few of their young.  All of these strategies are sound, utilize what their beings have as internal structures, and then exploit venues that allow for successfully passing on genetic material from generation to generation.

Most species fail.

Nature's harvest of species represents 95%+ of all species that have ever existed now being extinct.  That is the way of Nature, and no species is immortal just as no natural being is immortal, either.  Our race against death and extinction is temporary, although we do try to make our existence worthwhile and to ensure the greatest chance of survival to our offspring.  This latter, as we have seen, is a survival strategy bequeathed to us by our lineage both ancient and recent.  Within Nature animals within a species have used the raising of offspring as a major way to ensure genetic heritage being passed onwards.  Also within Nature we observe that numbers of individuals of a species of diverse genetic background can come together for self-protection.  Some that do this do it without conscious thought, while others have conscious discrimination although it is driven by instinct.  Evidence of this behavior crosses all lines of species, and is not held just for herbivores or omnivores or carnivores, and even plants that cooperate between members of a species to crowd out other species can be thought of as having this instinct for survival.  Thus man is an animal of nature in that way and our distinctive characteristics are few and telling.

At one time the ability to use tools and create tools was thought as distinctive to humanity, however observation of primates, great apes and avian species now demonstrates otherwise, as they are able to form tools to go after insects in hives and otherwise create direct use tools to do things.  What separates hominids from this is the ability to use tools to create tools and then extrapolate that outwards as a meta-concept.  Recursive tool creation, making tools to make tools to make tools to craft a final, useful item, is something restricted to hominids, of which humans may be the last of that lineage.  That, however, is a hard characteristic to determine and while it sets us apart in thinking it does not set us apart by Nature, which is to say it is a distinguishing characteristic of hominids but not determinative of being human.  Even something like the use of fire and creation of fire falls into this category of distinguishing sole characteristic, but not a determinative one.  You can tell a human does these things which makes that animal a human, but this does not speak to those things which create humanity.

If our tools, use of fire and artifacts do not create humanity, then we must look elsewhere into our nature as being that do so.  This must then be in our social nature as individuals and how we utilize that beyond other animals.  At base our decision for mating, keeping a mate and raising children is not one that is truly unique amongst species, as many species have this in evidence across all species types, although there is difficulty in finding this in the plant kingdom due to the nature of plants being rooted in one spot and having little choice of mates.  Plants may have community, indeed a climax forest of one plant dominating all others points to just such a thing, but it is not one driven by more than suitability to climate and habitat, with some characteristics to crowd out other species for that climate and habitat.  In that the Law of Nature holds.  Amongst other animals we do see conscious choice in mates amongst individuals and this happens in many species.  What is seen with that, however, is the push by intrinsic nature upon conscious decision making, to that end of nature of procreation.  There is an ability to reject mates in many species, and pick and choose amongst suitors from those present and even to bond with a suitable one for life is not unknown.  Humans are not tied to a mating season, however, and our conscious quest for a suitable mate goes beyond any single season or year, and until we can do that and find a way to find good mates via conscious means, we can do without such a mate.  When our means are enacted, either by the further creations that we make to get that decision or directly, we then establish that direct link and create something wholly different from the Natural world.

Our formation of society rests not upon instinct but upon conscious decision outside of the realm of mating.  We may create many things to do this for us in that final creation of society, such as 'matchmakers' but that is also a conscious decision and our ability to say otherwise, as individuals, can still be upheld.  When that decision over-rides personal decision to our detriment, the system is determined to be tyrannical and inimical to us and must either assent to our declining it or we must find suitable society that supports such decisions.  Here the creation of something to sustain that choice, something that is not driven by instinct but conscious thought, creates the thing that few others in the animal kingdom have: society.  Forming society is conscious, driven by our thoughts, and voluntary in that we may choose not to be in a society that upholds certain forms and yet we do uphold that society is necessary to uphold those forms we desire.  While we do create this society in the Earthly realm, it is not held to the Law of Nature alone but to our own conscious creative spirit that is held within all individuals who uphold that society.  When we recognize that we can do this and do so consciously, we set ourselves apart with a distinguishing and determinative characteristic of that subset of hominids known as Homo Sapiens.  To extrapolate out, to add the meta-thought that this is an actual new creation by us within the realm of Nature is something that makes us unique beyond physique and tools, thus creating Homo Sapiens Sapiens and a new order of Law.

This is the Law that allows societies to be created and for our mutual bonds to be upheld by society and to use our natural liberty to seek out societies that uphold such bonds.  This is not Civil Law which is an outgrowth of society, but a greater Law that is one we must hold voluntarily to have society.  At that moment we consciously recognize that we seek out others to be with consciously, that we put a single meta-structure that describes the creation of other structures over those structures we have created a man-made form of Law that is separate from the Law of Nature and yet built upon it.  We could not have such Law without Nature and yet Nature does not provide us with this Law and it is one we must make and discover for ourselves within the Law of Nature.  This Law of creation of society forming at our bond with another person consciously, and consciously creating that bond between us has a name unique to it that is neither the Civil Law nor the Law of Nature.

It is the Law of Nations.

If any other species, no matter how primitive, utilizes conscious thought to create bonds amongst individuals and then seeks to create a further structure to uphold those bonds, which we call society, then they are voluntarily committing to the Law of Nations.  I have examined the fact that we recognized such back in the 13th century and what that means to us, today, in a previous piece.  This concept is foundational to all societies and to all of mankind, and is voluntarily committed to by us, even if we do not know we are doing it either through lack of forethought, lack of knowledge or lack of introspection on the meaning of these things we do.  Yet, even if it is not recognized, not taught, not written it is a Law that is easily described and defined, and as the creation of any society rests upon the Law of Nations it can be rediscovered even if forgotten or even if it is actively not taught by those seeking tyranny over us.  The reason that latter is true, is that it is true in the long run, not the short run.  A successful ideology seeking to enslave all peoples may be able, for a time, to erase the written signatures of the Law of Nations, but because it is founding a society it, also, rests upon the Law of Nations and cannot do without it.  This is why those civilizations that seek to put the imprimatur of a God upon a mere mortal will assuredly fail over time: that we are of Nature is self-evident, and that man is not Divine is likewise self-evident.  Any society that allows such rests upon a deep lie that is contrary to our nature and to Nature itself.  Likewise, any society that tries to 'remake' man into 'perfection' will find the absolute imperfection of the mortal realm as its long-term lethal enemy.  As we are of Nature we cannot be made perfect and will always remain creatures of Nature no matter what we change ourselves into be it a workers paradise or a silicon based platform for thought, neither can do without Nature and has the flaws of Nature within it which is self-evident to thought.

All other orders of Law be it Civil Law created by society to uphold its norms or National Law to unify multiple societies into a Nation State or International Law between Sovereign Nation States, all of them must uphold the Law of Nations as that is foundational to them just as Nature is foundational to the Law of Nations.  What the Law of Nations does is describe those things that we, as individuals, set aside to have in common as a society so that we may have society.  The Law of Nations then becomes the structures that grow up around those set aside liberties and freedoms that we voluntarily acquiesce to having common governance over in society.  There are a large number of things that we voluntarily give up to have society: Private Bondage for Crime, Private War, Private Execution of Law.  Thus we agree that we, as individuals, are not judge, jury and executioner and must abide by the laws created by society, which are the Civil Laws,  as part of being members of society.  Likewise we cannot wage war Privately, which is to say without the sovereign grant of our society, as that would quickly lead to the downfall of all of society.  So momentous an action would quickly dissolve society back into Nature as we set man against man, society against society by individual whim.

At this level of the Law of Nations we find that there is no creation of government as this is the Law necessary for the creation of government, not of government itself.  Some of the provisos, actions, penalties and such that form the Law of Nations do get passed upwards to the organs of society made to administer our few relinquished liberties and freedoms in order to have society.  With society comes governance and the creation of organs to execute those things held in common for our self-protection and the protection of our creation which is society.  These things we enact then have their own realm of Law which is the Civil Law.  By being the laws created by society and common practice of that society, it is local law.  Civil Law varies from location to location, from place to place, from society to society and there may even be multiple different venues of local Civil Law within one locality.  Town, Municipality, City, County and Province or State all overlap each other on local law venues and all execute Civil Law that is local.  Whenever an issue is to be decided by members of society the proper local Civil Law must be utilized to address those needs.  If a local venue at its lowest form of government is not suitable to an issue, it must then either be recognized as not incorporated into the local law or incorporated into a higher level of local law.

Local law is often referred to as 'customary law' and may have areas of it that are unwritten.  The unwritten nature of local law makes it adaptable, flexible and capable of changing due to the changing nature of society.  When such unwritten or 'customary' law is enacted as scripted or written law, it becomes much, much harder to change as it gains structures of government, administration and oversight by the organs of government that are made responsible for it.  If all of life was to become law that is written down, then individuals would lose their civil liberty and become mere automatons of script with no conscious choice left to them.  Yet the creative nature of man is such that not everything can or should be scripted and written down into law for government to oversee.  To do so has been attempted in the past, in India with the Mahabharata and through the various Empires in China in which the administrative class once served as that class that kept absolute restriction upon society so that the structure ruled over the individual.  Such deeply scripted societies can last for decades or even centuries, and yet when one unscripted event happens, the society is at a loss for how to deal with it and creativity is put to use to figure out what is happening.  Some events may fit within the realm of what can be dealt with, say the Shogunate restricting coastal trade with medieval Korea, and yet may collapse entirely, as when Admiral Perry forced an opening for trade in the Shogunate.  Medieval Europe could well be sustained with a numerous feudal class, but when war and plague wiped out a large percentage of that class the survivors were then relatively wealthy having inherited the wealth of the dead and that started a chain reaction that broke that feudal society asunder. 

Thus, as in nature, a society that is scripted may have staying power but little resilience and succumb to the unexpected, as so many species have since the beginning of life on Earth.  Be it Soviet Union, Sun Empire, Shogunate, European Medieval society, Roman Empire, Pharaohonic Egypt, Hittite Empire, Alexandrian Empire, Babylon, Sumeria, Persian Empire, or India under the Mahabharata's dictates, those societies have not withstood the test of time due to the heavy nature of the scripting between classes and individuals.  And each of these conformed to having refined Civil Law at the National level, thus creating National Law.  When local Civil Law has wide agreement within a larger organized Nation State, then those laws may be codified into National Law that is upon all parts of a Nation.  Beyond that there are necessary Public Laws that must address the entirety of a Nation, such as trade, commerce, and how the Nation addresses sustaining the National government.  As highly structured Nations seek refuge in that structure, so they become brittle by leaving too little to local variation.

From the structure of laws at this point, there is the following larger to smaller subsets seen:

First is the Law of Nature, which encompasses all of Nature, entire.  It is the foundation for all laws made by Natural beings and is unbiased.  It is involuntary law and all must abide by it.

Second is the Law of Nations, which is that law which allows societies to form and, from that, Nations.  It is built upon the Law of Nature but separate from it as it is consciously made via our interactions with each other.  This law is voluntary and to be a member of a society, any society, one submits to the Law of Nations so as to ensure one's own safety, the safety of other members of society and the safety of society itself.  While unwritten law, it is easily recreated the moment society is formed and, thusly, is universal to all beings who possess liberty and freedom to form associations and create society consciously. As a structure the Law of Nations is unbiased, although individual societies will emphasize some parts of the Law of Nations over others.  All societies, however, are governed by the Law of Nations and voluntarily abide by it.

Third is the Civil Law or customary law, which is local law of society.  This is built upon the Law of Nations and is the method by which society creates those organs necessary to regulate the body of society on a local basis.  By becoming a member of a society one agrees to abide by the Civil Law and to do so as long as one is a member of that society.  When one is born into a society, one has no choice but to abide by the Civil Law and its consequences.  Upon reaching an age of conscious understanding of society, one may seek to leave one's birth society and seek another society that is more in agreement with the beliefs, attitudes and life outlook of that individual.  That is supported by the Law of Nations via the self-evident ability of man to consciously choose his form of outlook and join with a society that is agreeable to him.  This is the realm of State Law, which is to say the organs of government representing localities that are delegated by society for such government to preside over.

Fourth is Public Law, which is Nation State law, and is the law for an entire Nation as a whole, not in its parts.  Public Law represents the sovereign government of a Nation and that Nation State must abide by the structures set up for human interaction that are defined by the simplest of interactions via the Law of Nations.  Any Nation State is a high stature creation of large societies or multiple societies having broad common agreement on governing principles or other societal venues that bring them closer together.  As such the Public Law needs address the entire Nation State it represents in the continuum of other Nation States.  Thus the Nation State is a similar organizing unit in concept to the local government, but gains absolute independence due to the fact it represents an independent society or set of societies with high common agreement amongst them.  There is no larger or more sovereign power than a Nation State.

This then brings us to the fifth area of law which is International Law.  This is the form of law governed by the universal and voluntary Law of Nations as any Nation rests upon the Law of Nations for its existence.  As such Nation States as representative of independent societies are the sovereign organs of their societies and no Nation State is given preference or higher status within the Nation State system.  With such a system of equals there is no other power to turn to as each society has its own biases, preferences and outlooks that are represented by the independent and sovereign Nation State.  Thus all agreements that Nation States make are enforced only by those organs of society that create the Nation State, and any enforcement mechanism is likewise agreed-to voluntarily.  As such any Nation State may break an international agreement unilaterally, on its own, without compunction nor reason given.  The only repercussions faced are those imposed by other sovereign Nation States, not by a higher authority as there is none.  In this widely recognized accords become familiar to societies and agreeable ways to function between Nations is found, yet this does not mean that they become beholden to those ways.  Any society that finds the ways burdensome, alien or dangerous can, and should, rightly reject them especially when they put an entire people of a Nation at extreme risk and danger.

Summing up International Law, then, requires a recognition that it is a form of sovereign to sovereign contract law with either able to nullify the agreement at a moment's notice as that is the right of sovereignty.  The dream of there being a world state is one that comes against that sovereignty and is a notion that is relegated to the form of state known as Empire.  Any Empire that rules over a disparate set of subjects, climates, ethnicities and so on, soon finds the burden of trying to manage something that large to be impossible due to Civil Law at the local level.  Some Empires have kept such local establishments going with over-arching provisos of the recognition of the Imperial State as the Supreme ruler, but they, too, have fallen time and again throughout history.  The cracking point of all such grand schemes, be it a religious ideology of a single mass religion or a political one of a single world government, fall straight into the diversity of mankind at the local level.  Smaller Nations can, for a time, impose top-down rule as can Empires, but even in relatively limited geographic circumstances the ability of such Nations to continue on without local upheaval dissolving such government is recognized to be nil.  One dictatorial system may replace another, of course, and that has been seen in China, Russia, and elsewhere, which indicates some problems in societal understanding and cohesion more than an affiliation with the love of Tyrants and Despots.  Even then such dictatorial rulers must abide by the fact that they, even in their extreme self-indulgence, must cater to the entirety of their ruling domain.  Anointed Kings have found themselves in the hangman's noose or the mob's guillotine due to such lacks, and today the bullet becomes the end of those who believe that they are appointed to rule, not govern, for they have forgotten their place as an organ of society and in breaching the Law of Nations they find themselves at its sharp end.

If our modern era has any lacks it is understanding that most basic of laws that we create to separate ourselves from the Law of Nature, which is the Law of Nations.  That the Law of Nations only deals with Nation States as a function of our ability to create society, itself, is lost upon our modern culture and society.  There is a deep, dark space in our way of thought that presumes that the Civil Law or Public Law is the most supreme of all laws, and we even ignore the Law of Nature and presume to say that we can now rule Nature when we can not even govern ourselves well.  It is in that darkness that we hear the voice of corruption and tyranny, whispering softly to us that just by entrusting more of our liberty and freedom to governments that all will turn out well.  It whispers to us that mankind can, against all evidence against it, be perfected and is perfectible.  The great sorrow and bloodshed that comes from the voice of unreason sweetly whispering to us is denied time and again, yet the copious dead to the pyre of perfection smells just as rank even if you call it sweet ambrosia.  In believing that we can blame all our lacks on society and all our good will to government, we invert the actual nature of ourselves and forget that what we are saying is that government comes first, society second, while just the opposite is true. 

In this mortal realm we are bidden to seek to be 'more perfect' and understand that the Law of Nature that brings us forth creates imperfection within us and all things that cannot be removed.  No law has been so good that its best practitioners have not obeyed it, and even Moses, upon casting down the Tablets, ordered his fellow Israelites killed against the exact, same dictates he had just carried from the Mount.  Yet when we seek to practice imperfection, to loft up the power of government over society and over the Law of Nations, we will find that this can be done... and then that great and awful edifice will fall, with great loss of life in both directions.  No government is so wise as to be deemed all powerful, as it is made up of men and the creations of man, which are fallible, biased and prone to our corruption to ill ends.  No leader is so wise as to be able to understand the daily lives of each of his subjects nor to rule over them in such a way as to tell each how to live.  No people have created an eternal government full of wise and charitable leaders, that lead a penniless existence and only serve the ends of their Nation State.  It would be humorous that there are those that hint that this is possible, if we could just ignore the gore and horror attendant to each and every time that is tried.  Those preaching this are so wise that they have forgotten the founding Law that makes their existence possible, and then transgress the Law that makes such society as they live in possible by suggesting we don't need it if we only trust the infallible, all powerful, all knowing government that we, poor, frail and imperfect man creates.  And the epitaph of those who preach this seems to be invariant:

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Morning thoughts on the off-year election

Living in VA I can only offer the biased view of the elections just past as seen from a local standpoint.  Yet the trends locally appear to be mirrored elsewhere in the US.

VA had been trending from 'Red' to 'Purple' since the mid-1990's as the population increases in the State shifted the voting patterns from rural and somewhat south towards Richmond northwards to Northern VA (NoVA) and the DC Metro area.  This off-year election saw campaigning that offered a stark contrast from the way they had been run since the mid-1990's and those campaigning in the older mode of pure attack ads, with very little positive to say about themselves as candidates, lost yesterday.  The winning candidates had ads were either purely positive about a candidate or ran with attack ads as half or so of the campaigns media buys.

As a side note on my viewing patterns, as they do skew what I see, the overwhelming majority of my time watching any television (approx. 3 hrs/day) concentrates on the History and Discovery channels, with a small portion of FNC added in.  I can't speak to the other channels and their viewership amounts or media buys, but for those cable channels, particularly my majority viewing time, was dominated by the Republican party and I can remember seeing less than 5 total Democratic party ads over the last month, while on my main viewing channels that would be what I saw nightly for the Republicans.

The winning themes of the ads were: lower taxes, efficient government, and a strong personal story featuring military service either by the candidate or by family members.  The McDonnell campaign did not stage any buys for 'response' ads to negative ads taken out by the Deeds campaign.  Watching the 100% map last night saw VA that had very few 'Blue' districts in the Governor's race, and the State's color was 'Red'.  Yet this is not the 'Red' of Social Conservatism, although a strong family presence for the McDonnell campaign was evident throughout the late campaign season.  Words that were not heard were: abortion, 'family values', 'litmus test'.  The Deeds campaign ran one of the worst campaigns State-wide that I have seen in my time in VA, dropping the rural background of the candidate and, instead, going for attack ads based on  a 20 year old college paper done by McDonnell.  That form of campaign worked well for Webb's Senate campaign, but flopped with a 20 point margin loss in 2009.

Down-ticket races run by Republicans (Bolling for Lt. Gov., Cuccinelli for Attorney General) both won with a mix of positive ads and attack ads, with the Bolling campaign nearly evenly split while the Cuccinelli campaign remained highly positive in its buys up to the last day or two.  Their themes were similar to the McDonnell campaign, save that the negative buys tended to place themes that were difficult to shake: 'Washington Insider', 'weak on crime' and 'higher taxes'.  Those negative themes bolstered by positive candidate buys, along with single response ads by all the candidates proved to be critical to those campaigns.

Local district campaigns also moved strongly into the pro-candidate positions on taxes, jobs and fiscally responsible government.  In NoVA this became a sweep in even in Fairfax County that had been tending 'Blue' for over a decade.  The Rust and Greason campaigns (Fairfax and Loudoun districts) had mixed mode campaigns that still favored positive themes over negative ones, with the Rust campaign side-stepping charges of not carrying through on previous campaign issues for State funding for autism by putting forward issues of VA financial problems requiring tough budget decisions.  Here the balance between what would be 'nice' to do was pitted against fiscal realities during a downturn that started over two years ago in Fairfax.  The Greason campaign buy had its initial message of attack politics evenly split with positive imagery of their candidate as a family man and veteran, both of which resonated with the Loudoun district he ran in.  The negative attacks were echoes of those further up-ticket: 'opponents as outsiders or carpetbaggers', 'weak on crime', and fiscally irresponsible.

Overall the positive themes were those of fiscal responsibility and taxes needing to be lowered, along with positioning government so as to help the working class in suburban districts, plus messages of military service and strong family backing.  The losing themes of digging up 'dirt' a decade or two old, balancing the budget with taxes and playing to the mid-1990's to 2008 campaign trends that emphasized negative campaigning lost.  They lost heavily in VA Statewide and locally.


Some observations on other races

NJ - The Democratic Party Machine has run into extreme problems in the Garden State.  From what little I've seen/read about the races there, they are a strongly set of concurring themes as seen in VA for the winning candidates: fiscal responsibility via lower taxes and less government, personal integrity, positive ads, and strong family backing for the candidates.  Four or eight years ago a major shift in NJ from the Democratic Machine would have been inconceivable, and yet, even with huge investment from the party in its candidates, those media buys have not proven to be effective.  Outspending your opponent is no longer a path to victory.

NY-23 - As I grew up in Western NY what I witnessed going on over this election cycle was what I had come to expect: an incompetent and clueless Republican party.  Upstate NY is a different beast than downstate NY (NYC to Albany axis, but mostly NYC): the urban center of NYC and suburbs of Long Island and those suburbs stretching north are far more socially and fiscally liberal than rural, small town and suburban upstate NY.  The Republican party in NY has been more closely aligned with the 'Rockefeller Republican' fiscally 'moderate' (ie. pay for everything with taxes) wing of the Republican party.  While fiscal conservatives do pop up in NY State, they are the exception, not the rule.  By not holding a primary for the NY-23 seat, the Republican party also played to its tone deafness towards their own party and placed someone who was highly irregular for that district into the election.  Scozzafava's backing for the NY State equivalent of 'card check', winning the Margaret Sanger award, and being unable to realize that in a downturn these are not in tune with the district she was in caused the Conservative Party of NY to run Hoffman against her and the Democratic candidate Owens.

A month ago Hoffman was an unknown.

A month later he garnered nearly 46% of the final vote tally after Scozzafava dropped out and endorsed Owens.

In that month in-between the old GOP insider system broke down when Gingrich endorsed Scozzafava and both Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin endorsed Hoffman who ran on fiscal conservatism.  Gingrich's image as a Washington Insider had already been seen on the 'global warming' ad with Nancy Pelosi, and none of his 'we need a seat at the table' rejoinders were coming off well when the answer that fiscal conservatives expected was: NO.  By playing the Washington Insider game, Newt Gingrich demonstrated his own brand of DC-centric tone deafness and thinking that 'having a seat at the table' actually can get you what you want.  The rejoinder by him that Scozzafava would follow the Republican line on 'key votes' went no where, and the endorsements by respected, fiscally conservative Republicans of Hoffman saw a major push on his candidacy that would cause Scozzafava to lose in a three-way race.  That polling also showed that she split votes with Owens, thus leaving Hoffman the winner.  She left the race so that Owens could garner her votes and win the election.


Final thoughts

'Blue Dog' Democrats now are faced with a situation in which two key States for the Democratic party in the 2008 cycle have rejected the party on fiscal conservatism grounds.  Districts which once trended 'Blue' in VA now trend 'Red' and similar is seen in NJ.  This is not the advance of the Republican party, but the shift to candidates that address fiscal realities during an economic downturn, and who do not see more government, bigger government and more taxes as the way out of an economic crisis.  Much to the consternation of social conservatives, the idea of a 'litmus test' has disappeared on the Republican landscape overnight.  That brand of social conservatism from the 1980's to 2008 has just received a major blow as none of the issues that have been 'hot button' played any role in these races.

Contrarily social liberalism is not a path to victory, either, as none of the issues played up (at least in VA) gained any traction at all.  Free spending big government is not something that will garner winning vote majorities.  Nor will paying for those with higher taxes, fees, or any other scheme be something that can easily be shrugged off.  Government largesse comes with a huge economic price tag that, while not seen immediately on the individual level, effects the overall economy.

Where that leaves social conservatism is in a 'live and let live' mode that doesn't like to have 'purity' of anything, yet understands the need for strong families and commitment to the Nation, not its government.  Abortion will continue to play a role, no doubt, but it is no longer a topic that is ascending, but descending.  Restrictions on abortion will continue to be a theme in Republican politics, but will only play in the fiscal area of: 'government shouldn't pay for it, it is your life and your responsibility'.  That should be a rallying point, this idea of self-responsibility, but big government conservatives have demonstrated a tone deafness on this issue like no other.  That leaves social conservatives unable to thematically address that self-responsibility for families, local affairs and moral behavior becomes an over-theme to campaigns, thus leaving candidates to find that for themselves.  A 'take responsibility for yourself and don't look to government to get you out of your messes' is one that should resonate in the socially conservative realms, and yet it has not received an airing for decades.

That is because the message would have to adopt fiscally conservative values that endorse smaller government, lower taxes, a 'live and let live' attitude on many life styles, and not endorsing a government role in 'expanding' political correctness of the Left or Right.

'Blue Dog' Democrats are now seeing the beginnings of a flow towards what should be their home territory of fiscal conservatism, but they are also witnessing the break-up of Republican systems that have tried to enforce party unity from the top downwards.  The Democtratic party has been doing that for decades, and the social and fiscal sands that castle is built on will not hold, as it did not hold in VA or NJ.  To win in 2010 as a 'Blue Dog' requires adopting fiscally conservative themes and voting that way, while speaking out on those themes every time a microphone is in front of your face.  If you talk about 'party unity' and 'having a seat at the table', you will soon find yourself in Newt Gingrich's Washington Insider Intensive Care Unit.

Liberal Democrats will be doing their damnedest to enforce 'party unity' and to 'keep on message', and not realize that their majority rests upon districts now flipping against them.  Voting trends in 2009 will continue if there is still an economic downturn into mid-2010 and be reinforced by any major fiscal disaster by any State or in the Federal Government.  Thus the following States, now facing huge budgetary problems heading towards insolvency, become key States to watch: CA, MI, MA, NY.  CA, in particular, is seeing a melt-down unlike any other ever seen in the US as its taxes go ever upwards, its government size balloons and people, even the illegal aliens, run away from the State.  MI also has extreme problems and even with Ford doing well, the high spending, high tax system of MI has destroyed Detroit and is about to suck the rest of the State down with it.  MA has tried to give medical benefits to everyone, and now sees its system heading downwards.  NY has been a high tax state since the Erie Canal proved a revenue boon, and has never gotten off the increased tax syndrome that came when the Canal died, and the anti-business stance of the putative Republican Bloomberg in NYC points to the woebegone state of the Republican party in NY.  As NYC goes, the rest of the State must follow due to economics, and NYC is digging a hole in the river.

To survive this 'Blue Dog' Democrats are now in the position of either meaning what they say and breaking with the high tax, big government Liberal base, or seeing a landslide of epic proportions as the cost of such programs ripple throughout the Union.  As Republicans are now foundering and seeing parts of their party shift away from the central portion of it, the Democrats now face this exact, same problem: 'party unity' is a loser at the local level.  Voting for 'big ticket' items after this election is a strange form of political seppuku for 'Blue Dogs'.

What is interesting is that the Conservative Party in NY now has a moment in the limelight, and any astute party leader should push for a large registration drive over the winter, plus as many candidates as they can field upstate in hard hit regions economically.  Shifting emphasis to fiscal conservatism that backs strong families and personal responsibility can resonate in NY State, when coupled with the message: 'we are being taxed into poverty'.  Of course in NY that would be a good place for 'Blue Dogs', who vote their values of fiscal conservatism, to head towards.  No one thinks the NY Democratic Party machine can be broken in NYC in any substantive way.

But it can be broken in Upstate NY.

With the Republican party leadership heading one way, and its State based organizations moving another (save in NY where it is notable by its tone deafness), any 'Blue Dog' can see that they have the exact, same problem in their party.

Does this mean a third party?

That depends on many factors, and this winter will see if the Tea Party movement is effective in its organizing efforts in multiple States and if the NY Conservative Party can find an independent voice from the Republican party.  Meanwhile the Democrats in DC are now eyeing the fact that 2008 had personality trump policy, and that 2009 dramatically reversed that so that policy is now in the trump position.  Votes do matter.  Putting higher taxes and bigger government in place is no longer the default winning condition.  And that, too, is a change from the last two decades and a much needed one.