Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Liberty, security and those giving both away

“Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security”

- Benjamin Franklin (via Thinkexist)

The rights secured against government are particular and many, especially with regard to the US federal government and by incorporation to the States.  Additionally those powers not granted to the federal government are retained by the States and the people.  These are not new securities, by any means, and many go back not just to the Magna Carta and the pre-existing contracts between the people and their sovereigns, but also through the works of the post-Westphalian West that helped to delineate the differences between Moral Law, Natural Law and Civil Law.  As Natural rights and liberty are granted to us because we are part of the natural universe, there is no way that those rights can be severed from people as individuals and we can only agree to not exercise certain rights and liberties when we create government at the personal level and then at every level thereafter.  Of all governments it is self-government that is the strongest since it starts with each individual.  All other governments must utilize exterior power to enforce any larger agreements upon individuals as governments.  As Tom Paine puts it, government is the Punisher and all governments are created from the bowers of the ruins of paradise.

Freedom of speech is one of the prime rights secured against government as it is the way we communicate our inner-most feelings and ideas with each other as people.  As a people we are guaranteed that communication via the freedom of the press so that all means to communicate with each other are open to us.  With these two is the freedom of religion, the right to communicate our inner-most feelings to the Creator.  Together these are all descriptive of freedom of thought, the freedom to be oneself to oneself as you are.  Individuals who secure these rights are known as citizens, others that do not secure them properly are subjects as they allow their interior self to be defined by exterior forces.  Yet, within the heart of every subject is a free man, a citizen, if they would but allow themselves the freedom to think as they will unfettered by exterior forces.  This is the most powerful of rights as it allows self-direction, self-creation and the ability to reshape the very world by daring to find a way to do the impossible.

In our world there are those threatened by citizens, by free men, who dare to express their own ideas freely.  This is not the mischievous negative liberty to scare others (the yelling fire in a crowded theater paradigm) which is an attempt to subjugate others to fear of physical pain so as to cause pain.  In that same category is the incitement to riot which is a calling on the fear and hatred of others of some object, person, people, race, religion, or other demonized other of the moment.  Nor is there a thing known as 'hate speech' as there are only hateful people, and such people deserve the right and liberty to espouse their inner-most self so others can see just how small and hateful such people are.  Such speech is not applauded, but is counter-acted by various means, including just pointing out how hateful and baseless it is.  Thus even the worst, most vile of speech is not remedied by censorship on the outside, but through reasoning of individuals to understand just what the impacts of such speech are and why it is not good for individuals to do it.  Either that or learn to cope with the effects of such speech, that choice is up to individuals, not governments.

Current events always bring forward Franklin and his wisdom is one to be heeded as he helped to bring so much common sense to our Nation and because it is common sense and easy to understand it accords within free people to abide by it.  Events are within a time frame or period, and yet how we decide to deal with them help to chart the course of ourselves, our Nation and all humanity.  Thus your decision on how to deal with speech you do not agree with is up to you.  Sadly, there are those who want to vest that into bureaucracy we call government.  Take Eric Posner, at Slate, in has article of 25 SEP 2012 The World Doesn’t Love the First Amendment:

The universal response in the United States to the uproar over the anti-Muslim video is that the Muslim world will just have to get used to freedom of expression. President Obama said so himself in a speech at the United Nations today, which included both a strong defense of the First Amendment and (“in the alternative,” as lawyers say) and a plea that the United States is helpless anyway when it comes to controlling information. In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them. Muslims need to grow a thick skin, the thinking goes, as believers in the West have done over the centuries. Perhaps they will even learn what it means to live in a free society, and adopt something like the First Amendment in their own countries.

But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.

Note that first part I put into boldface, about the means of communication and what is said: that is the power of free speech and the press, both.   I will repeat it as it is a complete logic construct in its own right:

In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them.

Without a free press the ability to disseminate ideas to point out tyrannical moves to punish people to think freely is then put into the very hands of those who seek more power via government.  Indeed, if government has not the power to stop such speech, as Mr. Posner implies, then there is no governmental remedy for such speech.  That is pure and absolute logic and proposing to make law of any sort that intrudes into this realm is backward, not by my logic but by that proposed by Mr. Posner.

The second part I highlighted is a call for self-censorship in appeasement of those who cannot or will not handle other people's freedoms well.  That is, individuals must censor themselves so as not to arouse the hatreds of those who will find any reason or rationale to express rage.  If it is not a video it is cartoons.  If not cartoons it is a book.  If not a book, then a poem.  The point is that it isn't the medium of expression that is at fault, nor those doing the speaking, but those doing the listening or receiving of such information that they cannot stand you not thinking and believing as they do.  To censor oneself in the face of such barbaric rage that seeks to impose its beliefs on others by silencing it is to give up that most especial of freedom: the freedom to be oneself.

That is not a 'response' but appeasement in the face of barbarism.

This is inviting more barbaric activity by becoming silent and passive.

It is acquiescing to barbaric actions by silencing oneself about them.

And no free man would ever consent to doing that.

This is not an 'alternative': it is inviting the death of civilization via the veto of the violent and intolerant.

To ask people to give away such rights and the liberty to use them, after going through the vagaries of the Left and Right, Mr. Posner puts this up as a reason to become silent in the face of barbarism:

We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events. As often happens, what starts out as a grudging political settlement has become, when challenged from abroad, a dogmatic principle to be imposed universally. Suddenly, the disparagement of other people and their beliefs is not an unfortunate fact but a positive good. It contributes to the “marketplace of ideas,” as though we would seriously admit that Nazis or terrorist fanatics might turn out to be right after all. Salman Rushdie recently claimed that bad ideas, “like vampires … die in the sunlight” rather than persist in a glamorized underground existence. But bad ideas never die: They are zombies, not vampires. Bad ideas like fascism, Communism, and white supremacy have roamed the countryside of many an open society.

The First Amendment is a securing of our Natural right of freedom of self, which is independent of the US Constitution.  The so-called 'contingency' misses the fact that this right had become an established one under the common law, with roots dating back not just to the Magna Carta but to the earliest law frameworks worked out in the House of Wessex.  In fact the concept that is embodied in this framework of law is that known as a 'contract' between the people and their government.  Contracts have varied over time, yes, and the extent of the limits of government start with these very first contracts that stipulate a concept of there being no taxation without representation by the governed to agree to such taxes.  The changes in these contracts and the limits of government are not ones on paper as those only come after countless changes of government, kings, and virtual despots.  These agreements are written after the blood has been spilled, victors found, and then limits on victory also found.  This Anglo-Saxon concept of limiting government and getting representation into it can be dated back to the 9th Century AD.  Where other peoples were having their laws and taxes dictated to them by government, the Anglo-Saxons were putting government on notice that it is by the consent of the governed.  As a Swedish King acknowledges that the Crown cannot go where the people do not want it to go and that the head wearing the Crown is liable to the same laws as the governed.

The Universality of Natural rights only came after 1648 and the Great Peace of Westphalia that got government out of using religion to gain more power and prestige for the rulers via religion.  This post-Westphalian European concept marries up with the English Common Law very well, as the latter is based on low-level contractual assurance, checks, balances and agreement, not sovereign dictates from the ruler.  With the Enlightenment the Natural Law is seen as universal and, thusly, the rights and liberty that they endow go to every man at every time, if they have but the wisdom to see them for what they are.  This is not a dogma but a piece of knowledge that put to an end the Divine Right Monarchy concept and helped to install a concept of sovereign power being accountable to the governed.  It is not universal because of dogma, the dogma comes from the understanding of the self-evident universality of these rights.  Clawing out positive rights from the negative power of government has been a fight going on for nearly two millennia, not since 1787 or 1776 or 1648.

In seeking censorship, Mr. Posner puts forward that 'bad ideas never die'.  That is correct.  And censorship only makes them more attractive, not less, if the Banned in Boston booklist is any measure of such things.  Bad ideas need to be countered, discussed, and the reason they are bad refreshed on a continual basis so that people know why they are bad ideas.  Not doing so, not speaking out against the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and lesser tyrannical systems like the Ba'athists that grew from Nazism, ensures that you get lovely artifacts like a President having a Mao Christmas tree ornament in the White House, or children wearing apparel festooned with Che the torturer and killer on them.  You can't stop a bad idea by not talking about them, by not calling attention to how bad they are, by not seeking to show how bad they are by the fact that those you seek to talk to will call you racist, phobic or any of a million other names to distract from the fact they are unwilling to talk about how bad their ideas actually are.  Not talking about them allows them to spread because they are malignant and when not countered by simple logic their interior emotional venom allows people to justify all sorts of activities.

Like invading the grounds of Embassies.

Like killing Ambassadors and other protected individuals, which is an Act of War.

Like mass murder.

Like subjugation of the meek by tyrants.

In the end Mr. Posner puts this out:

The final irony is that while the White House did no more than timidly plead with Google to check if the anti-Muslim video violates its policies (appeasement! shout the critics), Google itself approached the controversy in the spirit of prudence. The company declined to remove the video from YouTube because the video did not attack a group (Muslims) but only attacked a religion (Islam). Yet it also cut off access to the video in countries such as Libya and Egypt where it caused violence or violated domestic law. This may have been a sensible middle ground, or perhaps Google should have done more. What is peculiar it that while reasonable people can disagree about whether a government should be able to curtail speech in order to safeguard its relations with foreign countries, the Google compromise is not one that the U.S. government could have directed. That’s because the First Amendment protects verbal attacks on groups as well as speech that causes violence (except direct incitement: the old cry of “Fire!” in a crowded theater). And so combining the liberal view that government should not interfere with political discourse, and the conservative view that government should not interfere with commerce, we end up with the bizarre principle that U.S. foreign policy interests cannot justify any restrictions on speech whatsoever. Instead, only the profit-maximizing interests of a private American corporation can. Try explaining that to the protesters in Cairo or Islamabad.

Again, note the bolded part of this.  Google, as a corporate entity (which is to say an incorporated person) exercised judgment and did what it thought was best.  This is a very exercise of the First Amendment right of Google which is a positive exercise of that right.  Of course this isn't what the government we currently have would have wanted, but so what?  Our rights do not come from government, we only ask that it protect those rights.  And the ability to exercise prudence, caution and adapt circumspection to individual actions is fully and completely within the realm of individuals.

But Mr. Posner decries that very 'profit making entity', which means that if Google were a charitable outfit, that its decisions would be OK?  Those are incorporated entities, as well, yet they do not seek a profit.  The implication is that the US government should impose laws on corporations to make them abide by the will of government policy.  Yet that is not a power handed to the federal government via the contract we call the US Constitution.  If the US government wishes to restrict all civil communications with certain governments then it can do so, of course, but that isn't what Mr. Posner is seeking via his construction of the equation.  He is posing that corporations should become an arm of government policy.  That means every religious organization, every charity, every small business, every thing that we do when we agree to work together and incorporate an entity comes under the control of the US government for speech and, by implication, all foreign policy.  Yet it has not the power to do so because we do not grant such powers to the government.  Nor to any government.

What you hear is the beg for totalitarianism under the guise of anti-capitalism.  Even worse it is a begging to destroy the meaning of our contracts writ small, between individuals, and writ large, between the people and their government.  Mr. Posner doesn't seek a trade in liberty for security, but a trade in liberty for tyranny with no interceding points.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The return of 1979

In one of my very first posts I wrote was about the concept of Jus ad Bellum or 'Just War', which are the instances laid out in Law of Nations by de Vattel (1758) of when a Nation State may go to war.  This I expanded upon in Where Angels fear to tread, because in our modern age we have glossed over and completely excised the differences between Public and Private war and what responses are appropriate to each.  Law of Nations is descriptive law that attempts to encapsulate unwritten law which was differentiate by Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England (circa 1250) as the law leges, as opposed to the jus scriptum or written law.  In fact Bracton describes Law of Nations as jus gentium:

What the jus gentium is.

[017] 33The jus gentium is the law which men of all nations use, which falls short of
[018] natural law since that is common to all animate things born on the earth in the
[019] sea or in the air. From it comes the union of man and woman, entered into by the
[020] mutual consent of both, which is called marriage. Mere physical union is [in the
[021] realm] of fact and cannot properly be called jus since it is corporeal and may be
[022] seen;
34 all jura are incorporeal and cannot be seen. From that same law there
[023] also
35 comes the procreation and rearing of children. The jus gentium is common
[024] to men alone, as religion observed toward God, the duty of submission to parents
[025] and country, or the right to repel violence and injuria. For it is by virtue of this
[026] law that whatever a man does in defence of his own person he is held to do lawfully;
[027] since nature makes us all in a sense akin to one another it follows that for one to
[028] attack another is forbidden.

The Law of Nations, then, is universal to thinking beings  capable of having families and of defense of self and Nation, as Nation arrives from the union of thinking man and woman in families.  As the presence of families seeking to protect themselves and working with other families is universal in mankind, so are Nations, and yet the jus gentium does not come from Natural Law but from the application of reason and self-governance to our natural liberties and rights.  Thus law of nations is usually spoken of in the lower case, encompassing the entire unwritten part of mankind's activities that fall into it, and in the larger case when citing an individual work within it.  As de Vattel had worked with Blackstone prior to the colonies separating from the Great Britain, that work is predominant and guiding not just in the thought of those Founding the Nation and Framing the Constitution, but actually has direct, upper case citation in the latter.

What Law of Nations describes is the outcome of what many civilizations have formed in the way of rules between Nations and while it concentrates on mostly European Nations, the form of interaction described is one that can be seen globally between all Nations and the States running them.  It doesn't matter what period of history you search (ancient to modern) or where you look geographically (from Southern Africa to Northern Siberia to the Great Plains to the high coastal regions of South America, all of mankind works under law of nations.  de Vattel devotes an entire book (Book III) to warfare, which shows itself as a major part of the activities of mankind, but for the actions seen in Tehran in 1979 and today in Cairo and Benghazi, one must look to the norms and standards of diplomacy between Nations which comes in another book (Book IV).  Ideas presented in both books receive references earlier in the work, but their full fleshing out happens in them as these are major components of Nations.  To get an idea of how this works, here is paragraph 1 from Book IV:

§ l. What peace is.

PEACE is the reverse of war: it is that desirable state in which every one quietly enjoys his rights, or, if controverted, amicably discusses them by force of argument. Hobbes has had the boldness to assert, that war is the natural state of man. But if, by "the natural state of man," we understand (as reason requires that we should) that state to which he is destined and called by his nature, peace should rather be termed his natural state. For, it is the part of a rational being to terminate his differences by rational methods; whereas, it is the characteristic of the brute creation to decide theirs by force.1 Man, as we have already observed (Prelim. § 10), alone and destitute of succours, would necessarily be a very wretched creature. He stands in need of the intercourse and assistance of his species, in order to enjoy the sweets of life, to develop his faculties, and live in a manner suitable to his nature. Now, it is in peace alone that all these advantages are to be found: it is in peace that men respect, assist, and love each other: nor would they ever depart from that happy state, if they were not hurried on by the impetuosity of their passions, and blinded by the gross deceptions of self-love. What little we have said of the effects will be sufficient to give some idea of its various calamities; and it is an unfortunate circumstance for the human race, that the injustice of unprincipled men should so often render it inevitable.

Peace, then, is amongst the civilized of the Earth and those Nations that wish to practice peace should have intercourse and discourse between them so as to iron out differences.  The brute man, the savage man, wishes no discourse and only force to be the way to settle things, to impose his will upon others without their consent.

You are, perhaps, seeing where this is going, no?  How discussions really weren't present in1979 or today?  Is what we are seeing and did see the actions of peaceful, rational man in his Nations, or irrational, brutish man that is uncivilized?  If one cannot distinguish between these things, then one cannot properly distinguish between war and peace as peace is not just the absence of war.  It is not with emotional fervor that I call these actions barbarous, brutish, savage and wholly contrary to civilized intercourse amongst Nations for that is exactly what these actions are stripped of all emotional content but with the ability to judge what is civil discourse and what is attack to get one's way and enforce one's will.

Now what is the source of these actions?  Not the immediate 'this anti-Islamic film inflamed individuals' for it is possible to have heated passion without running riot, without damaging property of another Nation and without inflicting physical and lethal harm to others.  Thus comes the second paragraph of Book IV and the object is still Peace:

§ 2. Obligation of cultivating it.

Nations who are really impressed with sentiments of humanity, — who seriously attend to their duty, and are acquainted with their true and substantial interests, — will never seek to promote their own advantage at the expense and detriment of other nations: however intent they may be on their own happiness, they will ever be careful to combine it with that of others, and with justice and equity. Thus disposed, they will necessarily cultivate peace. If they do not live together in peace, how can they perform those mutual and sacred duties which nature enjoins them? And this state is found to be no less necessary to their happiness than to the discharge of their duties. Thus, the law of nature every way obliges them to seek and cultivate peace. That divine law has no other end in view than the welfare of mankind: to that object all its rules and all its precepts lend: they are alt deducible from this principle, that men should seek their own felicity; and morality is no more than the art of acquiring happiness. As this is true of individuals, it is equally so of nations, as must appear evident to any one who will but take the trouble of reflecting on what we have said of their common and reciprocal duties, in the first chapter of the second book.

Note the last part I put in boldface, and that the individual and nation are part of a scale-free phenomena called 'peace'.  A moral people, seeking happiness, would criticize those who detract from their religion, perhaps seek to have some understanding of how such a thing could come to be made with it being so hurtful to them.  That is the realm of discourse, where passion can and must still play a part, but it also recognizes the rights of others to have their say and put such matters publicly for the benefit of all to hear and understand.  For such morality to be present it must, actually, manifest in peaceful activities that respect other individuals and nations.  Thus it can be said the activities taken in Tehran in 1979, Cairo and Benghazi in the last two days were not ones that were moral nor ones that respected the rights of other individuals or nations.

Of course as Nations have States to support them, those States fall under the sovereign power of the Nation.  There are responsibilities for those who are vested with such sovereign power and their activities are the ones in which nations interact with each other.  Responsibilities beget obligations and the sovereign has obligations as a manifestation of the power of the nation:

§ 3. The sovereign's obligation to it.

This obligation of cultivating peace binds the sovereign by a double tie. He owes this attention to his people, on whom war would pour a torrent of evils; and he owes it in the most strict and indispensable manner, since it is solely for the advantage and welfare of the nation that he is intrusted with the government. (Book I. § 39.) He owes the same attention to foreign nations, whose happiness likewise is disturbed by war. The nation's duty in this respect has been shown in the preceding chapter; and the sovereign, being invested with the public authority, is at the same time charged with all the duties of the society, or body of the nation. (Book I. § 41.)

If government is to have peace it must seek it not just for its people but for those nations it interacts with.  The obligation to peace is put in trust to a Nation's government, and it is a grant of responsibility, obligation and power (although that will vary from Nation to Nation, the Nation as a sovereign power is said to have the whole power) by those in the Nation to that government.  It may not be a grant by consent, and thusly any government that takes up the sovereign power without consent is doubly responsible for its activities.

In the case of 1979 that was (and remains) the government of Iran, in Cairo it is the government of Egypt, and for Benghazi it is the government of Libya.  The outcomes of such activities are the responsibilities of the governments of each nation and what happens determines the course of that nation: are they to put forward the rule of law and diplomatic discourse or are they to endorse such activities?  And what are the outcomes of these courses of action?  Depending on which course is taken, the destination is set, and that is not by emotions but by the actions of the sovereigns involved.  In Iran and Egypt the governments did not decry such activities, nor did they offer up to have a rule of law applied to the individuals doing such actions.  In Libya, as far as can be discerned, there is a willingness to seek out the miscreants involved in murder of the US Ambassador and bring the proper laws involved into play (whatever they are).

Taking the last case first, as it is the closest we have come to expect from responsible actors as nations, even though the activities are horrific.  Much later, starting in paragraph 80, are how Ambassadors are to be treated, and this is important in the Libyan case:

§ 82. Particular protection due to them.(197)

This safety is particularly due to the minister, from the sovereign to whom he is sent. To admit a minister, to acknowledge him in such character, is engaging to grant him the most particular protection, and that he shall enjoy all possible safety. It is true, indeed, that the sovereign is bound to protect every person within his dominions, whether native or foreigner, and to shelter him from violence: but this attention is in a higher degree due to a foreign minister. An act of violence done to a private person is an ordinary transgression, which, according to circumstances, the prince may pardon: but if done to a public minister, it is a crime of state, an offence against the law of nations; and the power of pardoning, in such case, does not rest with the prince in whose dominions the crime has been committed, but with him who has been offended in the person of his representative. However, if the minister has been insulted by persons who were ignorant of his character, the offence is wholly unconnected with the law of nations, and falls within the class of ordinary transgressions. A company of young rakes, in a town of Switzerland, having, in the night-time, insulted the British minister's house, without knowing who lived in it, the magistracy sent a message to the minister to know what satisfaction he required. He prudently answered, that it was the magistrates' concern to provide for the public safety by such means as they thought best; but that, as to his own part, he required nothing, not thinking himself affronted by persons who could have had no design against him, as not knowing his house. Another particular circumstance, in the protection due to foreign ministers, is this: — according to the destructive maxims introduced by a false point of honour, a sovereign is under a necessity of showing indulgence to a person wearing a sword, who instantly revenges an affront done to him by a private individual: but violent proceedings against a public minister can never be allowed or excused, unless where the latter has himself been the aggressor, and, by using violence in the first instance, has reduced his opponent to the necessity of self-defence.

Libya can try such people, but the place they can, nay must, reach trial is in the domain of the sovereign offended.  If you kill the US Ambassador clemency, guilt or innocence cannot be determined in Libya but only by the US.  That is the normal, ordinary course of affairs between nations that have regularized diplomatic intercourse via the exchange of diplomats.  If the US recognizes such a government then that government has the obligation to seek out those who do such crimes and hand them over.  There can be initial trial in Libya, yes, but any sentence is held in abeyance until they can be tried in the US.

No matter how piss-poor the current Libyan government is, they at least are acting by civilized norms and must be worked with and supported in their actions to bring those individuals in for trial.  If they act in bad faith, seek to shield such miscreants or otherwise dissemble their intentions by their activities, then there are other means to go through to ensure compliance with the responsibilities and obligations of the sovereign power in Libya.

That now leaves the similar cases of Tehran 1979 and Cairo, in which the US Embassy grounds were invaded (twice in Tehran, once in Cairo to-date).  This requires a look at the Embassy, which are part of where the Ambassador does his work:

§ 110. The ambassador is exempt from the civil jurisdiction of the country where he resides.

SOME authors will have an ambassador to be subject, in civil cases, to the jurisdiction of the country where he resides. — at least in such cases as have arisen during the time of his embassy; and, in support of their opinion, they allege that this subjection is by no means derogatory to the ambassadorial character: "for," say they, "however sacred a person may be, his inviolability is not affected by suing him in a civil action." But it is not on account of the sacredness of their person that ambassadors cannot be sued: it is because they are independent of the jurisdiction of the country to which they are sent; and the substantial reasons on which that independency is grounded may be seen in a preceding part of this work (§ 92). Let us here add, that it is in every respect highly proper, and even necessary, that an ambassador should be exempt from judicial prosecution even in civil causes, in order that he may be free from molestation in the exercise of his functions. For a similar reason, it was not allowed, among the Romans, to summon a priest while he was employed in his sacred offices:1 but at other times he was open to the law. The reason which we have here alleged for the exemption is also assigned in the Roman law: "Ideo enim non datur actio (adversus legatum) ne ab officio suscepto legationis avocetur,2 ne impediatur legatio."3 But there was an exception as to those transactions which had taken place during the embassy. This was reasonable with regard to those legati, or ministers, of whom the Roman law here speaks, who, being sent only by nations subject to the empire, could not lay claim to the independency enjoyed by a foreign minister. As they were subjects of the state, the legislature was at liberty to establish whatever regulations it thought most proper respecting them: but a sovereign has not the like power of obliging the minister of another sovereign to submit to his jurisdiction: and even if such power was vested in him by convention, or otherwise, the exercise of it would be highly improper: because, under that pretext, the ambassador might be often molested in his ministry, and the state involved in very disagreeable quarrels, for the trifling concerns of some private individuals, who might and ought to have taken better precautions for their own security. It is therefore, only in conformity to the mutual duties which states owe to each other, and in accordance with the grand principles of the law of nations, that an ambassador or public minister is at present, by the universal custom and consent of nations, independent of all jurisdiction in the country where he resides, either in civil or criminal cases. I know there have occurred some instances to the contrary: but a few facts do not establish a custom: on the contrary, those to which I allude, only contribute, by the censure passed on them, to prove the custom such as I have asserted it to be. In the year 1668, the Portuguese resident at the Hague was, by an order of the court of justice, arrested and imprisoned for debt. But an illustrious member of the same court4 very justly thinks that the procedure was unjustifiable, and contrary to the law of nations. In the year 1657, a resident of the elector of Brandenburg was also arrested for debt in England. But he was set at liberty, as having been illegally arrested; and even the creditors and officers of justice who had offered him that insult were punished.5

This is later reinforced in paragraph 113 and elsewhere in Law of Nations.  When the Embassy of another nation is broken into, that is not an act of civil invasions but one of law of nations contravention.  When it is private individuals doing such invasion, it is not civil trespass but a violation of the treaties between the nations involved which gives rise to an escalated tensions between the nations involved.  The government of those people doing the invasion is responsible for a response: is it the course of civil process by the course of law, or is it upholding the law breakers?  When it is the latter case it is giving backing to the action that then moves it from the realm of civil dispute to one of dispute between nations.  In other words it transforms from mere civil trespass, to be sorted out by diplomacy and civil proceedings, to one where an actual invasion is given backing which is a casus belli, a cause for war.

When the sacrosanct nature of agreements between Nations, in exchanging ambassadors or other public ministers in search of peace requires this as it is the civil, rational and natural movement of men to seek peace amongst themselves.  When that is transgressed and backed by the sovereign power of a Nation, peace can no longer be said to be the object of its desire.  There is always an opportunity for diplomacy, of course, but that must be taken by that nation backing the transgressors, not by those being invaded.

Those doing the invasion, not being in uniform, not adhering to the standards of law of nations or the rules of war, are now conducting a military operation outside of both.  This moves us back to Book III, the one on warfare and who gets to make it:

§ 4. It belongs only to the sovereign power.(137)

As nature has given men no right to employ force, unless when it becomes necessary for self defence and the preservation of their rights (Book II. § 49, &c.), the inference is manifest, that, since the establishment of political societies, a right, so dangerous in its exercise, no longer remains with private persons except in those encounters where society cannot protect or defend them. In the bosom of society, the public authority decides all the disputes of the citizens, represses violence, and checks every attempt to do ourselves justice with our own hands. If a private person intends to prosecute his right against the subject of a foreign power, he may apply to the sovereign of his adversary, or to the magistrates invested with the public authority: and if he is denied justice by them, he must have recourse to his own sovereign, who is obliged to protect him. It would be too dangerous to allow every citizen the liberty of doing himself justice against foreigners; as, in that case, there would not be a single member of the state who might not involve it in war. And how could peace be preserved between nations, if it were in the power of every private individual to disturb it? A right of so momentous a nature, — the right of judging whether the nation has real grounds of complaint, whether she is authorized to employ force, and justifiable in taking up arms, whether prudence will admit of such a step, and whether the welfare of the state requires it, — that right, I say, can belong only to the body of the nation, or to the sovereign, her representative. It is doubtless one of those rights, without which there can be no salutary government, and which are therefore called rights of majesty (Book I. § 45).

Thus the sovereign power alone is possessed of authority to make war. But, as the different rights which constitute this power, originally resident in the body of the nation, may be separated or limited according to the will of the nation (Book I. § 31 and 45), it is from the particular constitution of each state, that we are to learn where the power resides, that is authorized to make war in the name of the society at large. The kings of England, whose power is in other respects so limited, have the right of making war and peace.1 Those of Sweden have lost it. The brilliant but ruinous exploits of Charles XII. sufficiently warranted the states of that kingdom to reserve to themselves a right of such importance to their safety.

That step of saying that the citizens have acted in accordance with the sovereign power is one that changes the activities of those citizens and gives them military legitimacy.  They are not legitimate military actors, however, by any standard and any future actions by such non-military actors is one that comes under law of nations as well:

§ 34. Na-

Nations that are always ready to take up arms on any prospect of advantage, are lawless robbers: but those who seem to delight in the ravages of war, who spread it on all sides, without reasons or pretexts, and even without any other motive than their own ferocity, are monsters, unworthy the name of men. They should be considered as enemies to the human race, in the same manner as, in civil society, professed assassins and incendiaries are guilty, not only towards the particular victims of their nefarious deeds, but also towards the state, which therefore proclaims them public enemies. All nations have a right to join in a confederacy for the purpose of punishing and even exterminating those savage nations. Such were several German tribes mentioned by Tacitus — such those barbarians who destroyed the Roman empire: nor was it till long after their conversion to Christianity that this ferocity wore off. Such have been the Turks and other Tartars — Genghis Khan, Timur Bec or Tamerlane, who, like Attila, were scourges employed by the wrath of Heaven, and who made war only for the pleasure of making it. Such are, in polished ages and among the most civilized nations, those supposed heroes, whose supreme delight is a battle, and who make war from inclination purely, and not from love to their country.

That is what such nations are, are they not?  The ones that incite their people to kill not to protect society, not to protect territory or property, not to any sane reason and without justification.  These are so-called 'rogue nations', although getting modern man to understand that civilization is at threat from such nations has been difficult, if not impossible to do.  When private individuals take to war with no sovereign grant or oversight, no sovereign accountability, that is unlawful war:

§ 67. It is to be distinguished from informal and unlawful war.

Legitimate and formal warfare must be carefully distinguished from those illegitimate and informal wars, or rather predatory expeditions, undertaken either without lawful authority or without apparent cause, as likewise without the usual formalities, and solely with a view to plunder. Grotius relates several instances of the latter.5 Such were the enterprises of the grandes compagnies which had assembled in France during the wars with the English, — armies of banditti, who ranged about Europe, purely for spoil and plunder: such were the cruises of the buccaneers, without commission, and in time of peace; and such in general are the depredations of pirates. To the same class belong almost all the expeditions of the Barbary corsairs: though authorized by a sovereign, they are undertaken without any apparent cause, and from no other motive than the lust of plunder. These two species of war, I say, — the lawful and the illegitimate, — are to be carefully distinguished, as the effects and the rights arising from each are very different.

§ 68. Grounds of this distinction.

In order fully to conceive the grounds of this distinction, it is necessary to recollect the nature and object of lawful war. It is only as the last remedy against obstinate injustice that the law of nature allows of war. Hence arise the rights which it gives, as we shall explain in the sequel: hence, likewise, the rules to be observed in it. Since it is equally possible that either of the parties may have right on his side, — and since, in consequence of the independence of nations, that point is not to be decided by others (§ 40), — the condition of the two enemies is the same, while the war lasts. Thus, when a nation, or a sovereign, has declared war against another sovereign on account of a difference arisen between them, their war is what among nations is called a lawful and formal war; and its effects are, by the voluntary law of nations, the same on both sides, independently of the justice of the cause, as we shall more fully show in the sequel.6 Nothing of this kind is the case in an informal and illegitimate war, which is more properly called depredation. Undertaken without any right, without even an apparent cause, it can be productive of no lawful effect, nor give any right to the author of it. A nation attacked by such sort of enemies is not under any obligation to observe towards them the rules prescribed in formal warfare. She may treat them as robbers,(146a) The inhabitants of Geneva, after defeating the famous attempt to take their city by escalade,7 caused all the prisoners whom they took from the Savoyards on that occasion to be hanged up as robbers, who had come to attack them without cause and without a declaration of war. Nor were the Genevese censured for this proceeding, which would have been detested in a formal war.

We call these modern day actors: terrorists.  They are in the same class as pirates as the objective of war when done by private individuals without sovereign grant is not material: power, lust, greed, or just wanting to see the world burn are all one and the same in Private War which is illegitimate in all circumstances.  A Nation condoning and sponsoring such is an enemy of all mankind.

Unfortunately the State of Iran and Egypt are now in that category and are abusing their sovereign power meant to protect their people and using that power to inspire the activity of war to no lawful effect and no good end for mankind.

I have no hatred for the people of Iran or Egypt.

Their governments are monsters as their actions now tell you that.

It is civilized to wish that the people of these Nations had governments worthy of them to seek peace for them amongst their fellow nations of the Earth.  Such is not the case and the remedy has already been stated, if one can but read and reason.

Friday, September 07, 2012

One Step Out

You are prepared for the worst of times, now, or you will find yourself in a rush over the next 2 months to get prepared.

I've gone over the basics before and it comes down to survival level preparation, not the 'do I have a few days of food around the house?' sort of preparation, although that is a necessary precondition it is not sufficient to longer-term survival.  This longer-term stuff deals with preparation of food, water, fuel, sanitary supplies, medicines, weapons, ammunition, and necessary rugged clothing to get through the worst your local climate can hand you.  I am in the last stages of energy preparation and getting in efficient refrigerator and freezer space to run off of solar units.  I am lacking in one or two 'nice to have' things (an end of civilization vehicle capable of getting through an EMP) but otherwise will be set for whatever the future brings in one month.

That is worst case scenario planning.

I will not go into a 'best case' scenario, but the moderate road to the long slog out of our dire circumstances is finally appearing.  It will be a long slog, make no mistake about it, and there will be a change in our short-term outlook due to necessity at the National, State, local and personal level.  The National level is the easiest to encompass and has the most number of 'knowns' to it, which means that examination of probabilities are based on where we are at, what we know of the situations involved, and what can be done to ameliorate them.  What won't be happening on a fast scale, although over 20 years it is a more than faint possibility, is a federal government 'reset button' being hit to make each and every department and each and every law with its regulations tie directly back to the US Constitution.  Getting back to Constitutionally limited government is a goal, not a destination, in that it can never be fully reached, there will always be more to cut and there will be constant vigilance necessary to stop backsliding.  With that said, the easy stuff is also the 'hard stuff' to enumerate.

- Social spending – This is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (M&Ms), welfare (under multiple programs), unemployment benefits, and any other program that is meant to redistribute wealth from taxpayers to the poor, needy and those who generally don't pay income tax.  Yeah, they pay FICA, so?  It is a tax, not necessarily income tax (although the distinction is fine) and the program it funds is in the red and will go completely insolvent in the near future.  That is true of all the 'entitlements' that no one is actually entitled to, and they are all taxing and spending programs when all the feel good veneer is rubbed away.  The worst are the M&Ms as they have been one of the prime causes for raising the cost of medical care through the 'help' of government being unwilling to pay the full cost of care for those in the programs thus raising the price for everyone else.  Add in the subsidization of medical 'insurance' via the tax code, and no one knows exactly what medical care costs any longer as no one is willing to pay an unburdened price for it and the burdened cost is already built into the system.

Solutions to social spending are various, but they all include keeping those 'in the system' in it, and restructuring to abolishing the rest of the system.  One of the reasons I caution to get stocked up months or a year in advance of necessary, daily medical supplies is that something is going to have to give and you don't know what will come out the other side.  Moving to a user-choice based system is necessary and mandatory as the various governments have demonstrated a stark incapacity in actually knowing what they are doing in the health care arena.  You own your body, and caring for it is your problem, and as your property that keeps you tied to this world you might want to stop letting other people decide your fate for you.  When government controls your health care in any way, shape or form, it controls you.  Retirement is something that you must consider for yourself, sans government, so that no matter what government tells you that you must do, you are prepared to thumb your nose and say to it 'go away, my life is my own'.  The idea of retirement may come to be obsolete within two decades if, and only if, we survive past this time of trouble.  That is a ray of hope, for those of you looking, and it goes beyond retirement to medicine, more on that in a bit.

- Industry, energy, natural resource utilization – Federal restrictions based on feel-good ideals and bad science are leading to a catastrophe in the US for energy use.  That for a Nation that just might have the greatest reserves of coal, natural gas and, yes, oil on the planet.  A cynic in the 1980's pointed out that we are exhausting the rest of the world's supply, first, so that ours will be the only one left once the rest of the world can no longer get to the easy stuff.  There is a glimmer of truth in that, sad to say, but never has it been taken to such immediately destructive ends as we are in today.  Basically the idea that the federal government has purview over these areas of the economy flies in the face of limited government power distribution, in which the States and the people get those things that are few we hand to the federal government.  Regulation, politics at the National level, and a religious fervor based on junk science and bad faith are now putting the US in extreme peril of a catastrophic energy increase.

The basics of getting out are clear and simple: hand these things back to the States and those few cross-State concerns that do not tread upon federal domains can be worked on by the States in the plural.  Federalism is the number one answer to these and many other problems, and by shifting the scale to the more local States there is an overhead burden removed from it as local economics will dictate results.  Did it take an EPA to clean up the Cuyahoga River?  Yes.  The Ohio EPA did that, and beat the federal government by years by seeing this as a problem long before the leftist song singers arrived as that burning of the river had been a frequent event.  A pro-active State government utilized its powers (which are many) to deal with a problem tailored to local conditions.  Worked, too.  The States have demonstrated that for off-shore oil exploration that their record is superb for near coastal waters and stringent as well.  Perhaps they can apply that to 'economic zone' waters off their coasts as well, and tailor local solutions and enforcement to their needs.  Alaska doesn't have the same problems as Louisiana or Florida, so why have the same straight-jacket of regulations applied there or anywhere?  The States can serve as a hotbed on getting their lands back by asking the federal government, per parcel, to show where the State legislature actually allowed the federal government to hold that land.  Or, in a lovely twist, just declare 'eminent domain' on those lands and take them out of federal control.  As on land, private drilling is now yielding great returns on investment, perhaps it is time for the States to remember that they OWN that land and that grants to the federal government can be rescinded.

- The weeds of regulation – There are numerous departments and agencies within the federal government that have little useful purpose.  Energy, Education, Labor, HUD, choice parts of Interior... plus quasi-government organizations that do things out of the reach of Congress like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Sallie Mae, Ginnie Mac, Federal Reserve.  When the Federal Reserve tells Congress it won't print money to cover new debt, and then prints money to cover new debt, you have a purely rogue institution that is opaque to outside scrutiny dictating the health of the economy to the citizens.  These and a host of other organizations for the Arts, Humanities, and other educational venues all need to be cut, the quasi-governmental agencies turned into stock based companies and the Federal Reserve slowly relieved of its power of diluting the dollar.

Some of these can come quickly, just by cutting cash off to them in the budgetary cycle.  Others, like the Federal Reserve, that have proved to be openly hostile to the American public and our currency, need to be ground down and if not out of existence all together then given competition by establishing other banks to take over similar duties and making them all accountable to stock and bond holders that must be US citizens.  Removing the power of government to put quasi-governmental agencies in charge of home mortgages is a long-term losing proposition and a drain on the federal budget.  So must student loans.  And the entire subsidy system that increases the cost of food to line the pockets of large agricultural concerns.  The States can regulate agriculture and screw it up small scale so the Nation is not put at peril by our own government at the large scale.

These are moderate and intermediate transfers and changes that must happen for the Nation to survive and it involves the disentanglement of the US federal government from assumed powers and puts it back on the course of having to do its few duties.  That is a goal, not a destination.

In the very short term, there is the distinct and growing possibility that the current regime in DC will not get re-elected.  They will try, of course, via voter fraud and through compliant Secretaries of State or whichever State level official is in charge of counting the ballots, but if it isn't close, the cheating disappears as a factor.  All is not sweetness and light thereafter, however, although minimal and bare prospects do improve.

There may be a wholesale repudiation of the policies of the last four years (Rep. King from IA, I believe it is, has put a bill like that forward this session and one might expect the same in early JAN 2013).  Even that as a GIVEN the problems of the M&Ms, SSA, and federal intrusion into the loan and banking industry IS STILL THERE.  It is a problem, a major problem, and a structural problem that requires removing, altering or swapping out large parts of the structure set up by the federal government.  The nausea of Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie and their friends at HUD and the Federal Reserve may, finally, put in place something to get these groups disassociated, abolished or made into stock held companies by US citizens and put the federal treasury beyond their reach for good and all.  That is EASY compared to the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the M&Ms, SSA and 'entitlements', and yet they, too, must be altered, changed and parts of them abolished as well.  Be prepared to put in good people in 2014 to continue the work, and then in 2016 because it won't even have really started by then.  This easy stuff, whacking the weeds out of the way and getting entire departments abolished or turned into temporary block grant accounting groups is easy in comparison.

All of this happens against the slowly building backdrop of One Step Out.

I expect radical Islam to come to power and consolidate and then begin bickering with each other almost endlessly: it is what Caliphates do until they become decadent and collapse.

China has a dustbowl, a demographics collapse, inflation, jobs fleeing to places like Vietnam, a crony banking and industrial system that makes our problems look tiny in comparison... that won't last as it can't go on forever and it can't even go on much longer.  Islam in the far west provinces, Maoism returning just a bit closer and a tiny town able to bring the government to its terms all point to a major set of problems in China.  In a century it may not look anything like modern China in size or scope, although it may be able to keep more coastal ethnic enclaves together.

Japan is at the point of either removing most of its government or disappearing as a people and Nation.  Simple survival choices over the next few years.

India grew fast, economically, but without depth to it and now the faltering steps forward are seeing great problems, internally.

A wheat rust has spread from Africa to the Middle East and now is heading into central Asia which is bad news for all involved.  Russia still has a demographic problem, an Islamic problem, multiple ethnic problems, organized crime as part of the government, and still suffers from lack of infrastructure advancement.

Europe is on the ropes and poverty is about to return there.  Unilever, the large corporation, is now marketing to Greece as it does to places like Indonesia with individual packets of shampoo and a new meal in single serve packs of potato and mayonnaise.  This is where Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France are headed, as well.  Germany is chucking the 'Green' stuff to build 23 new coal fired power plants as it can't depend on foreign sources of energy and solar power just isn't all that dependable.

Gloomy, huh?

The good news?

First, modern medicine is joining the nanotech revolution.  Just like biotech, before it, that means new drugs, new cures, a lower long-term cost, and an extended life span.  Really, if you can lead a healthy and vigorous life up to, say, 100 years old, then why should anyone think about 'retirement' in their 60's?  Or 70's? Or 80's? Or 90's?  Do you see where this is headed?  This is about the demographics of ageing and how it has changed over the 20th century.  Ray Kurzweil pointed this out in the 1990's, I think it was, and that the rate of adding 1 year to life span had been decreasing throughout the 20th century going from nearly 10 years to 4 years at the end of it.  Which is to say that for every 4 years you age, you get an added on average 1 year of life expectancy (not a guarantee by any sort, but it is demographics and averages).  This was an accelerating trend throughout the 20th century starting with good public sanitation, boosted by antibiotics and mass immunization, and then going after some of the harder diseases that were ending lives early.  Nanotech and new approaches to bacteria and viruses, plus the full working of the human genome and its part in chronic diseases now show the promise of eradicating things like cancer, influenza and, possibly, even ageing itself.  When life expectancy goes up 1 year for each 1 year you live, you essentially have a lifespan limited to one where accidents becomes a major killer (not septicemia or heart disease).

To get to there from here requires a hard disentangling of government control over medicine.  Want a brighter, longer lived and healthier, plus lower medical cost future?  Get government out of it.

Want to see M&Ms, SSA and a number of other programs in serious trouble because they are horse and buggy style laws in the equivalent of the jet age, then continue asking the current set of questions and not look towards our future.  If you mortgage that future, now, you are dooming billions to early death, disease, and continued misery.  As I said earlier, surviving the next 20 years generally intact is a major concern.  Prepare.  Now.

- Final Frontier – Forget the oceans, although they will serve as a source of lovely raw materials for stuff on Earth for at least a century.  The next great bonanza is in space, and we aren't talking automated probes, either.  There are now a number of players stepping in to the one policy that Obama has that I can endorse: get the federal government out of providing space transport.  It was meant to HURT the US, yes, but it is, instead, making NASA a mere contract agency to get stuff into space from the private sector.  The current crop of companies are start-ups and now competing to get material, supplies and people to the ISS.  These start-ups are relatively low-key and using relatively old technology that is on a slow trend towards moving the cost per pound to orbit down.  It gets economical at about $1,000/lb. and that is very doable with old technology.  To get the next quantum leap down ($100/lb.) will also require old technology but with new materials to get stuff to the edge of the atmosphere and then go on from there.  At that cost point getting an individual, with space suit, consumables, etc. drops from the cost of a new house to that of a new car.  There is already a consortium of computer age billionaires (the tech boom moguls) who are starting to invest in getting to space in a big way as they see industry being cheaper and easier in space than on Earth.  Pull one good sized asteroid into orbit and you have more gold, platinum, and other precious metals than are currently in the global economy... and it is all accessible.  Lunar material offers the same sort of promise.  Both have the building blocks of industry in silica, iron, copper, tin...

Want to pay off the US debt?  Asteroid in orbit does that in short order.  Be nice if we had a country worth being in that rewarded such stuff, huh?

- Sidelined Cash – To survive the Quantative Easings by the Federal Reserve a lot of investor money has sat out the Obama years.  The last time the Federal Reserve acted like this, it had to jack interest rates up to 20% for a couple of years to get that money out of the system.  Any investor who sees the regulatory lid taken off of the investing and wealth producing class, you know the people who create jobs, will have an opportunity to invest in the recovery.  That can be done directly, through investing in start-ups (space, nanotech, medical) or through the expedient of becoming a private lender without the overhead of public lending institutions.  These are contracts and if making less than the Federal Reserve rate looks half-way decent, it also means getting some of that cash that is headed towards destruction into your pockets for further investment elsewhere.

Tech cash is one place that will be the source of this, as well as a few other places like the energy sector (where a lot of cash will be flowing into it).  An entire energy production, refining and transportation industry for fuels and even electricity will create a boom in the economy.  Some of that will go into other venues (space transport, infrastructure construction) that offer a good amount through doing nothing more than just lending money becoming a bondholder in most cases when its not a direct loan.  A strange time when the Federal Reserve is trying to get money out of the economy and private investors are trying to get it into the economy.

- Rise of the new education paradigm – The current educational system, designed in the 13th century, is about to come to an end.  The Khan Academy, free online content from Universities, and the idea that education goes beyond learning the basics but that you do have to learn the basics, means that our world moves out of the brick and mortar buildings and putting children into holding pens to be lectured, to something that becomes interactive, self-paced and unlimited.  And cheap.  You can't afford an education with the overhead of the old system, but the new system means that you will no longer be tied to a place for your education, but wanting to learn as something you do.  If your lifespan goes on way past 80 and you are still active and fit, then why not?  You will also change careers multiple times or see the idea of a 'career' disappear completely.

This fundamentally alters what we call 'poverty' as only the very least capable of people will be those unable to apply themselves to leading a good life: the permanently infirm, those bereft of mental faculties, and not much else.  Depending on just how long fertility is extended, the idea of 'prime childbearing years' and a 'biological clock' disappear entirely.  If you are getting the idea that simple changes in our understanding of biology, technology and its availability changes our perspective on government and its actual necessity, then you are catching on.  The programs, governmental organizations, taxes and all else that became part of the 'safety net' of the mid-20th century are dependent upon a set of circumstances that are about to be altered in ways that are beyond easy comprehension, but the possibility of you living to see those days are very, very good.

If you survive the next few years.

This is a fight for freedom, liberty and the unleashing of the human capability for the good of oneself and all mankind.  Socialism, that closed border system of limited capability and resources, isn't the future of mankind and the socialistic and progressive ideals are ones that depend on scarcity and rationing for very limited lives.  When your life gets longer, the ideals fall apart as they are 'overtaken by events', or OBE.  That old system that was built on good feelings and feel good because you foisted caring for others onto government is about to be OBE.  The crashing of economies that will happen, the grasp for temporal power is coming straight up against human liberty and freedom where the utilization of your positive liberties will make the last century's stupidity something that we will only scratch our heads about in 50 years.  If you are able to spend any time for that doing your new job in orbit, on the moon or in space, or even just down the hall but teaching about the world and skills necessary on a global and perhaps solar system basis.  Thomas Jefferson thought that the US would expand to the west was, perhaps, something that would be done in hundreds of years, not decades.  Once the pressure valve to get away from asinine and misguided government is opened, just how large will the flood to the future be?

I have no idea.  All you have to do is keep the course, remind everyone including the politicians that your liberty is supreme in your life and that you give very, very few things for government to do and that government is now in the way of the good of yourself and your fellow man.  There is a lot to do in these years, a lot of heartache, a lot of battles, a lot of screaming, and yelling and denial of what is coming because it looks like nothing we have ever seen before.  I welcome that future and the work involved.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Present through the lens of the past

Watching Dinesh D'Souza'z presentation of Obama's America 2016 was an exploration of the themes that have showed up in the immigrant experience in America as seen through the prism of not only Barack Obama but that of Mr. D'Souza.  Simple, factual presentation of his own background allows D'souza to present a contemporaneous view of Barack Obama's life that is not something that native born Americans experience.  This matters due to the roots of D'Souza coming from India and Barack Obama's parents coming from the US and Kenya.  More directly, Barack Obama Sr. would marry a woman of the US left, the far left, in the era of the Cold War.  It is to be remembered that the far left of the US picked up on 3rd World Anti-Colonialism that was fostered by the USSR.

The historical record of Barack Obama's life is what it is: one can disagree with ideologies, viewpoints and even simple analysis (to a degree), but the facts are what they are.  Barack Obama was brought up with his father, a 3rd World Anti-Colonialist, having bad traits washed from him by Obama's mother, particularly in respects to her second husband.  As her husband moved to embrace capitalism, she sent Barack back to her parents (who were also of the US left) so as to protect him from the shifting ideals and ideology of her new husband.  Gaining Frank Marshal Davis as a mentor that was a close friend of Barack Obama's maternal grandfather, put a hard basis for a pro-Communist viewpoint in Obama's early life.  The recounting of Obama's life, thereafter, is following his own footsteps and talking to the people who knew Obama and, most importantly, Barack Obama, Sr.

I grew up in the Dragon Year cohort, which is separated my a handful of years from both Obama and D'Souza and thus did not have their direct experience of the US left and its influences from the 3rd World Anti-Colonialist movement.  Those few years are enough to take that movement from a vital one (bolstered by the numbers of the Baby Boomer generation) to one of intellectual exhaustion.  Unlike these men I also grew up in a more crunchy form of socialist household, one that adhered closer to First International views and criticized later ones and those of Progressives.  Thus by the time I hit my time at University, I had a grounding in the rhetoric and intellectual methodology of the US left, although I had serious problems with its basic underpinnings.    With that said, those students that were on the left appeared to be losing interest in the actual underpinnings of their own ideology.

There is a fundamental  problem with 3rd World Anti-Colonialism as it was propagated in the US upper educational system: it couldn't explain why Western   Colonialism (or Imperialism via support of 3rd World regimes) was bad, while that of Communist expansion were either good or just not to be mentioned or glossed over.  If the imposition of economic exploitation is bad when done, then it is the activity that is bad, not the economic system of which power is doing it.  Yet at every turn capitalism was bad and communism good when attached to the same activity.  The disparity of wealth happened under both types of economic system, and there was no way that native regimes could pay for finished goods without regard if it came from East or West.  This is hypocrisy of the highest order, and yet is constantly whitewashed by those holding it whenever it was pointed out to them.  If the activity is one that is exploitative, then how can it be sanctified or whitewashed by any who support it?  And if there is a difference, then what is it and why can the same activity be good when done under different auspices if the activity, itself, is bad under any condition?

Without underpinnings in understanding ideology and sociology, or even just the basic rhetoric of socialism, there is no case that can be made and, worse still, it can only be a negative case when it is made as socialism has not uplifted any people to prosperity as a society, but only a select few apparatchiks who run the system.  Like capitalism.  3rd World Anti-Colonialism as a form of communism  puts a blame on capitalism for exploiting countries when those countries, on their own, did not have the basis for utilization of their resources.  That is due to a lack of skill sets amongst the general populace necessary to perform the tasks of creating and running an industrialized economy. 

As D'Souza points out, the colonial experience of India was one in which education was spread but upward mobility was sharply and precisely limited by the British.  After moving out from being a colony, India attempted 3rd World Socialism as helped by the USSR.  Which didn't work.  Yet the basis for creating a capitalist society had been left by the British in the form of an educational system and a bolstering of a merchant class (one of the areas somewhat available in India for advancement).  Socialist attempts did not bring about an economic base with prosperity and a general uplifting of the human condition, while capitalism did.  In talking to Obama's half-brother about his book, we find that he points out that the way Kenya went with 3rd World Anti-Colonialism actually retarded the growth of the Kenyan economy in comparison to other countries that were at the same or lower economic level in comparison.  Indeed, South Africa lasted longest under the colonial banner of the UK, and came out the best prepared to advance economically which led him to the argument that Kenya would have done better to have remained as a colony for another few decades.

In other words: colonialism isn't all bad.

India was able to actually leverage its education system and the higher general education of its population as compared to pre-colonial times to finally step away from socialism and start letting its people become productive and build the industrial infrastructure to support a modernizing Nation.  South Korea, that had been far more backward than Kenya and war ravaged has turned itself around into a modern, industrialized Nation even though Kenya had a head start on it at the time of Kenyan independence.

Yet the talking points from the US left that has imbibed in 3rd World Anti-Colonialism tell that colonialism and imperialism (as witnessed by the 19th century global land grab by colonialist powers) are only negatives and have no positive artifacts to them.  Yet there are examples of just the opposite of where colonial rulers have actually established educational systems, a relatively orderly bureaucratic system and even the nucleus of what could become a middle class.  If the caste system could not be wiped out in India, the excesses of it, particularly towards women at the death of her husband, could be stopped as well as death cults that struck fear into the population at large.  These are no minor tasks as they weren't being addressed under any prior ruling regime and continued as artifacts of Indian culture for centuries and longer prior to British rule.  On the flip side the Belgian Congo is an example of actual and deep exploitation and impoverishment of natives by a colonial power.  The counter to that are places like Indonesia, Malaya, S. Africa and (up to just recently) Egypt.  Where anti-colonial forces and revolutions have prospered, the systems put in by the colonialist powers have been diminished, repudiated, attacked or just abandoned to the detriment of the general population wherever that has happened.  Land redistribution does very little good if those on the receiving end don't know how to use it and, even worse, since 1970's era 'green revolution' methods require relatively large scale farms the efficiencies of such large scale agriculture are not only dismantled but can not come about until smaller land holders agglomerate back under a larger, incorporated farm system.

The glossing over of the benefits of capitalism, industrialization, private ownership of land, and actual job creation that necessitates an educated population are, at best, glossed over and receive head shaking from modern leftists to, at worst, questioning if having a good education system, modern economy and jobs is actually a good end goal for these societies.  What had started as a semi-rigorous religious outlook by Marx had, by the 1980's, lost all attempts at intellectual rigor and just wanted the patina of intellectualism by spouting good-feeling slogans without actually thinking what the preconditions for them actually are.  A utopian vision of society that has no realistic and well thought out anchor points to reality, that have the faults of its linkages unaddressed and those that do the criticizing attacked, is a recipe for not just disaster but slaughter on a scale unimaginable to the modern mind.  A modern mind that has, within its knowledge scope, two World Wars and the use of WMDs.

What had once been a relatively civilized, if authoritarian, economics viewpoint had morphed, by the mid-1980's, into a system that was now equating those who fought under no flag, for themselves and whatever grandiose slogans they offered, and did so without benefit of a uniform, accountability structure or even popular support as being the direct, exact equivalent of those who were held accountable, did have support, fought by rules of warfare, and had a civilized infrastructure around them.  Yet those at the beginning of the socialist project would have called those fighting without even the barest attempt at civilized behavior barbarians and, more importantly, destructive to industrialized society and the prospects of ever getting to socialism.  By embracing the USSR communist vision and talking points before the collapse of the USSR, by embracing sloganeering over methodology and rigor, and by ignoring the lack of cohesion between grand feel-good visions and the actual state of human nature, the modern left that joined with the 3rd World Anti-Colonialist movement had become not anti-colonial but anti-West and anti-civilization as they excused any and all deviations from civilized behavior as 'necessary to the cause' which is said in various ways.

The surest way to leaving modern leftism behind is to deploy the methodology and rigor of the old 'crunchy' socialists of the First International to these latter-day leftists inspired by socialism and communism, but who are unable to apply any rigor to their ideals and ideas.  By simply pointing out that private property capitalism is a necessary part of the creation of the pre-conditions for socialism because it must create a broad-based system of education to better exploit the working class is a key part of socialism that the modern Left can't even address nor understand as an intellectual concept.  You don't have to be a dyed in the wool socialist to find the intellectual vacuity of modern leftism (and its anti-colonialist cohorts) but just point out that under the dogma they are seeking and its end goals, that it makes no sense at all.  You don't even have to believe the underlying premises of old line socialism to do that, just point out that the end result of abolishing private capital and putting the State in control before the preconditions of Marx are met (and those do, by golly, vary greatly even in Marx's own works) is the worst of all systems that has no need to uplift and educate the poor that the private capitalist has, and just exploit the workers to the end of the State: State Capitalism.  The concept of State Capitalism didn't start with the Right but with the Left and was the exacting criticism applied to the USSR, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Communist China and any place where the industrial preconditions laid out by Marx were not present.  I found that vacuity just by pointing out that rigor to those who were in University attempting to figure out their own leftism and the lack of any actual intellectual knowledge about the underpinnings of their belief system were astounding, then and now.  One can appreciate the intellectual rigor of the old left and that the basis for it is misplaced, but the new left preferred slogans to rigor, feeling good about being smart rather than applying mental capacity to actually understanding what it was they were saying, and hand waving that all of this would come about in a peaceful way when all evidence from the past of their own movement had demonstrated just the opposite, not to speak of the broader history of mankind as a whole.  There is a high degree of resonance with Mr. D'Souza as he recounts his early time in the US and trying to talk sense to those on the left who approached the overseas students and had no clue about what the actual conditions were overseas in their Nations of origin.  That was true throughout the left a decade later and to see that it had already been present a decade earlier was not surprising at all.

Dinesh D'Souza by being conservative in the late 1970's didn't get to see the decay of the modern left in the US from the inside and only recognizes the artifacts of it as a social commentator and conservative from the outside.  From the inside his recounting of how Barack Obama came to his beliefs, indeed took up the dreams from his father which were anti-colonial/pro-communist makes a lot of sense.  The disjointed life that Barack had with missing father in Hawaii, going overseas, his mother re-marrying, his step-father doing well in life and his mother sending young Barry back to her leftist parents, his time in Columbia University, Harvard, his Chicago mentors, traveling to Kenya after his father's death, associating with Bill Ayers... all of that leads to a form of US leftism that is anti-colonialist, pro-communist and wholly destructive to society as it cannot reconcile itself to the fact that the high ideals only impoverish people.  Keeping his father's dream alive is keeping a toxic viewpoint going and embracing it, thoroughly.  This meant a move away from intellectual rigor, and shifting the focus of the anti-colonialist prism to the American experience and utilizing the leftist structure in the US to rise to power.

If the US had shame still left from the era of Jim Crow racism, then electing Barack Obama as a 'uniter' meant that those doing the electing had never bothered to ask: just what was it that needed uniting?  If the goal is to create one America, isn't that contrary to the espoused values of multiculturalism and giving hosannas  to the differences in cultures within the US?  When one speaks about what they wish to achieve, and those goals are high, then one must ask 'what have you achieved that makes you think you can get this done?'  None of the lofty and intellectual rigor that used to be in the Old Left, that examination of methodology and seeing if those means were to any ends that were part of the long term goal, are present in Barack Obama, because he has flat-out been unable to state what the means to the end goals are and what they mean to each and every citizen of the United States.  And if his vision is that of anti-colonialism, then when he talks about the need to bring down the 1% then he isn't talking about the rich in America, but all Americans as even the lowliest beggar in the US, the homeless in the US, those gone without a job and having lost their wealth due to the housing market, that all of these people are still much, much richer than any average citizen in a 3rd World Nation.  As pointed out by those D'Souza interviews (and I do paraphrase to get past some of the intervening steps of loss of productivity and sovereignty), the way to redistribute wealth globally is to diminish the rich and make everyone poor and turn the clock back not just to the pre-colonial period but, by and large, to a pre-industrialized one as well with only a very few Nations having any productive capacity at all... and they will have nuclear weapons.  America, you see, under the leftist goal of 'no nukes', means no nuclear devices for America and a severely crippled industrial base unable to recover past productivity due to crushing debt and the welfare state.

I've read about those lofty goals during the 1980's and the US Left is stuck in the 1980's when it isn't stuck in the 1960's, and there is a disjointedness to the slogans, to the goals, and to the rhetoric and lack of logical rigor that is breath-taking.  Unwilling to study history, save through a PC lens that has pre-determined outcomes and results and must ignore anything that contradicts those results, a fantasy ideology is fostered about the past and what a great place the pre-colonial, pre-industrial era was.  Anyone who wishes to read about those pre-colonial, pre-industrialized times without the rose colored PC glasses should do so and then add in the every so often WMD and applying that set of scenarios to the modern world may experience a certain horror that awaits the US.

In Barack Obama's vision of 2016.