Sunday, January 31, 2021

What are your bill payers?

Some years ago, I was conversing with a mid-level executive of a medium sized business. He said he was at a management meeting about setting priorities. There was a lot of discussion. At one point the CEO dropped by and said, “Setting priorities means how you spend your money. In business, if you say something is a a priority but it has no effect on your financials, then you have not made it a priority.”

That story made me think of the time I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the 1980s. One assignment I had there was chief of media relations for Fort Bragg and XVIII Airborne Corps. WRAL-TV was the local CBS affiliate and during my tenure they assigned a new reporter to cover the area. I invited him to come out to our headquarters to be given a tour of the base and a comprehensive briefing on what we did and how. He never came. Every time I try to invite him again he would always tell me, “It’s high on my priority list but I just don’t have the time.”

Think that through: It's high priority but I won't spend any time doing it.


Time and money. John Wesley talked about both. In his sermon entitled, “The use of money,” Wesley said:

We ought to gain all we can gain but this is it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health.

After having first, gained all-you-can and second, saved all you can, then give all you can. 

Christians, said Wesley, can be distinguished from non-Christians by only two things: how we spend our money and how we spend our time.

As for time, Wesley was more detailed: 

o Study the Bible for an hour each day

o Pray about specific things, especially about how we spend our money.

o Get enough sleep everyday.

o Our spare time activities should honor God.

o Live according to biblical teachings.

These considerations lead to the question of my title, what are your bill payers? I bring the question from my time assigned to the Army staff at the Pentagon. Every so often the Army would be directed to carry out mandates that were unfunded. Either Congress ordered them but didn't legislate funding for them, or the president ordered them but did not transfer funding for them.

So, sometimes I would go to a meeting about, say, the unfunded procurement of 250,000 left threaded kanootin valves, where the briefer would explain the cost estimate of 25 million dollars and then everyone would launch into a discussion of the question, what are the bill payers?

Which was to say, what were the other budget lines we were going to raid to pay for this new mandate? Who are the Peters we are going to rob to pay Paul, and how much are we going to take from each one? It was rarely easy to answer.

The question is about setting priorities, in which clarity is useful. When I was training as a free-fall parachutist, I asked the instructor, “If the main canopy doesn’t inflate, how long will I have to deploy my reserve parachute?” He said, “You will have the rest of your life.”

Perhaps that gives a different slant on ordering one's life. How long do you have to wash the car? How long do you have to mow the lawn come springtime? How long do we have to watch TV? “The rest of my life” does not make sense as an answer for those questions, nor for almost all the things we fill our lives with. But it does make sense to this question: How long do we have to become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ?

Jesus talked a lot about the right ordering personal priorities. The entire Sermon on the Mount is pretty much a motivational speech about that. Near the end of chapter 6, Jesus recounts what the people seemed to be spending most of their time and money on: their next meal and what they will wear. Well, food and clothing are basic necessities. But Jesus said not to worry about them, but instead, “… seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

What Jesus said is actually a thread that runs through the Bible in both Testaments. Micah chapter 6, says, God “has told you, oh mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” How long do we have to do that? Well, we have the rest of our lives.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 12 about a landholder who produced the huge crop, so he decided to build bigger warehouses to store it and then retire to eat and drink and be merry. The problem was he was already going to die that night. What was going to become of all his wealth then? He thought he was fixed for the rest of his life. And so he was, all 12 hours of it.

We do indeed have the rest of our lives to get right with God and live as his disciples. That gives it more urgency rather than less, doesn’t it? After all, we do not have forever to prepare for forever.

Think about how many parables Jesus told about setting the right priorities. He knew that setting priorities rightly means choosing rightly. In Luke 14, a man holds a banquet but all the guests he invited made silly excuses not to attend. But this fellow is going to host a banquet no matter what. So the man brings in the poor and the blind and the lame instead. 

I thought of that parable when I read not a few years ago of a jilted bride whose fiancé broke it off only a few days before the wedding. By then everything had been bought for the reception and there was no refund for the room at the hotel to hold the reception in. So, she held the reception party anyway. She invited all the homeless people from the Union Mission in the downtown area to come. True story – I think it was in San Francisco.

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a parable of a man who found treasure buried in a field. The problem was he did not own the field. So, says Jesus, the man went and sold everything he had to raise the money to buy the field and the treasure underneath it. 

Compare that parable with the time a wealthy young man went to Jesus one day asked, “What do I have to do to achieve eternal life?” Jesus’ first answer was one any rabbi would have given: keep the Commandments. The young man said, I have done this since I was a child. Then Jesus said, fine, go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me. That was not bill payer the young man was willing to raid. So he left Jesus and never saw him again.

Setting priorities always means asking the question in some form, What is my bill payer? What will it take to become more holy, more conformed to Christ likeness, to live as and lead others to become a disciple of Jesus? 

Remember we have only two resources time and money. For most of us, our scarcest commodity is time, not money. What do we fill our days with? Few of us have a lot of slack in our calendars. We have to drop something to fit something else in. So it is with moving on to Christian perfection. 

Aristotle pondered what is virtue and came up with a very simple definition. Virtue is excellence made habitual. Paul indicates in Philippians chapter 4 that excellence is whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable or praiseworthy, and those are the things we should spend our time on. 

Christian Author and speaker Patrick Morley said that American Christians have fallen into the fallacy of addition, thinking that we can increase godliness without subtracting ungodliness. Morley said the gospel of addition is 

The belief that we can simply add Christ it to our lives, but not subtract sin.

Thinking we can change what we believe without changing what we do.

And thinking we can be revived without being reformed.

What is it that hinders each of us from greater Christlikeness, or hinders our churches from a higher level of living as and leading others to become disciples of Jesus Christ? Those are the things that probably should be our bill payers.

Another way of identifying bill payers is the technique of planned neglect. Author Dorothy Haskins told of a noted concert violinist who explained that her mastery of the violin was due to planned neglect. She explained, “There were many things that used to demand my time when I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straight into the room, dusted, and did whatever seem necessary. When I finished my work, I turned my violin practice. That system prevented me from accomplishing what I should have done the violin. So, I reversed things. I deliberately planned to neglect everything until my practice. was complete. And that program of planned neglect is the secret of my success.”


A rightly prioritized life is one of no regrets. The body of the great African explorer and missionary, David Livingstone, was buried in England where he was born, but his heart was buried in the Africa he loved. At the foot of a tall tree in a small African village the natives dug a hole and placed in it the heart of this man who they loved and respected. 

So, I ask myself: If my heart was to be buried in the place I loved most during life, where would it be? In my bank account? In my office? In front of a computer screen or television? Is the place my heart is now different from where it should be? 

A fellow named Milt Rood worked for decades in Spokane as a car salesman. But his main orientation was with the Union Gospel Mission to work with juvenile delinquents. Every week for years he patiently taught the Bible and prayed with young boys in trouble. Then Milt took ill and died very quickly. After the funeral, Milt’s sales manager remarked, "It's interesting that at the funeral no one brought up how many cars he had sold."

In the entire time I have spent in pastoral ministry, I never heard anyone nearing the end of life say that they wished they had spent less time serving God and neighbor.

What are your bill payers to set the right priorities for living? 



Sunday, January 24, 2021

The coming markets crash - and then what?

This is a compendium of emails exchanges I had with someone I have known very well for decades, and whose opinions and counsels I trust. It began when I sent him this:

The author, Sarah Kang, whom I do not know, is a certified financial planner. This piece came up on my news feed, so I thought I'd send it to you. I argue neither for or against her conclusion, but what do you think?

https://uakdiversified.com/blogs/f/stock-market-crash-probability-%E2%80%93-financial-advice-from-sarah-uj

The article is dated Jan. 13. It begins well enough:

With the political landscape picture becoming clearer going into 2021, it appears that two things are likely to happen.  The Democrat party now has power to implement its own fiscal policies. Most likely, more economic stimulation from the government and the Federal Reserve. Unlike the Republican party, the Democratic party has little to no resistance within the party to expanding government programs and providing monetary stimulus for the economy.  This means that stocks may push higher due to inflationary forces as the value of money declines steadily.

Of course, rising inflation means that any rising value of equity holdings are diminished accordingly. Her conclusion?

The above chart shows the short term-based PE ratio, a variation of the Shiller PE ratio.  It shows a rapid bubble formation is happening right now that matches the recent stock market crashes of 2000 and 2008.

In fact, it is very possible that the stock market may climb higher for the next several months fueled by cash injections from the government and the Fed. However, from a prudent trade off perspective, it is going to require taking on too much risk to try to cash in with this short-term outlook. 

Consider me the unpopular ski patrol who tells young “GoPro” kind of skiers not to go up on the peak of the mountain right after a big blizzard.  It won’t be a popular advice until after an avalanche happens. 

Looking 1~4 years ahead, the unconstrained money printing will lead to inflationary pressure along with a declining dollar value. This anticipation leads me to tweak existing investment portfolios to have a bit more position in high-quality foreign bonds, commodities, and carefully selected real estate investment trusts in lieu of long-term bonds. 

My correspondent replied:

Facts are facts.  The question is how to interpret them.  The data shown compared to 1929, 2000, and 2008 are true.  I think we are truly in uncharted waters with the government stimulus exceeding $5 trillion if Biden's $1.9 trillion package passes.  It may not.  There are for sure many stocks that are in a bubble where cash flow and earnings can't support the stock price -- pretty much all of those that had outsized gains in the past year (greater than 150%, maybe less in many examples).  They will take a dive when interest rates rise, the vaccine gets delayed, earnings or revenue, for those that don't have earnings, a signal right there, don't meet expectations, or employment doesn't come back as fast as it is forecast.

I think there are quite a few stocks that are not in a bubble.  That doesn't mean they can't go down in sympathy when the bubbles do burst but they will drop less and may be what people buy when they bail out of the bubble stocks. I am looking for more established companies that have reasonable growth prospects or that pay a good dividend, ideally both. 

My reply was this: 

I think we have been in uncharted waters since federal debt exceeded the nation's GDP years ago. Ten years ago I wrote about the "crush depth of debt" and I think we have been living on borrowed time (and money) since then. Like you, I have been transitioning more and more into established equities - in my case, away from individual stocks and into ETFs and mutual funds, including one or two that are losing money in a rising market, but give me a hedge. 
 
I also wonder at what point the degradation of American politics will begin to significantly affect the markets. The Democrat House, despite losing seats, is more determined than ever to crush "domestic terrorists," which of course really means anyone who opposes the Biden-Harris agenda. I may as well go on the record now: 2020 was the final national election of the United States as we have known it. No matter how the 2022 mid-terms turn out, the America of 2024 will be politically, formally fragmented. 
 
Just last October, more than half of Americans polled said they "believe the country is 'on the verge' of a second civil war." This did not come out of nowhere, that number has been rising for a number of years. Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service polled the same question the same month and found that, "Partisan political division and the resulting incivility has reached a low in America, with 67% believing that the nation is nearing civil war... ." I do not myself predict an army-against-army conflict like 1861-1865, but I do forecast significant violence after the 2022 elections, no matter which party prevails, that will lead to some states seceding in polity if not in fact. 

Care to guess what that will mean for markets?
 
The only thing between now and then that might tamp down this rising probability down is that the one thing Democrats will never stand for is open defiance to their agenda. On inauguration day, Leftist anarchists violently rioted in Portland, Ore., against the Biden administration. The feds dispersed the rioters with tear gas and violence of their own. (Just imagine Dems' reactions if it had been Trump re-elected and the same thing was done.) Remember that in 1945, Stalin ordered the execution of German communists within his zone of occupation because once in power, Leftists will never accept competition, even from ideological allies. I do not think that Antifa will have an easy time for during the next two years, although they will never be named as "domestic terrorists" like almost all significant conservative organizations will be. 
 
So maybe investing more in international equities would be a good idea? Gold and/silver funds? As American continues fragmenting, I do not think that dollar-backed equities are going to do well. 

The Three-Person God

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Revolutionary Truth of the new Biden administration

Eduardo Zorita, a researcher on past temperature trends at the Institute for Coastal Research in Germany, writes
... I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. ...

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.
"Climate science" is an ideal model to explain where we have been going politically, a trend that will only accelerate with the incoming Biden administration, whose platform and promises are far to the Left of any prior one. To wit: Climate science is on the whole a political movement, not a scientific discipline. Climate science has no "product." The outcomes of climate modeling cannot be used to do anything except what is being done with them - promote statist control of ever-expanding slices of national economies to conform to a trans-nationalist ideology. 


German economist Ottmar Edenhofer is co-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change. He was the lead author of the IPCC's 2007 report. He told Germany's Neue Zurcher Zeitung in November 2020, as reported by Investors.com:
"The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War."

Edenhofer let the environmental cat out of the bag when he said "climate policy is redistributing the world's wealth" and that "it's a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization." ...

Edenhofer claims "developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community" and so they must have their wealth expropriated and redistributed to the victims of their alleged crimes, the postage stamp countries of the world. He admits this "has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole."
Climate science's only customer is governments, there being no commercial market for forecasts of 50-100 years. When climate scientists found that their only steady funding came from statist bureaucrats, the discipline, very fuzzy with huge margins of error to begin with, became subordinated to politicians' goals.

So welcome to the incoming Biden administration and its Ministry of Truth:
 

If climate science could be used to do anything else, it would already be happening. But have you ever heard of any report of climate science's findings not seized upon by the Left to expand the power of the state or trans-state organs?

Now if climate scientists find that their only paying customers are statist bureaucrats, and most of the scientists were taught beginning as undergraduates to believe that ideology, what do you think will be the result?

The result is that climate science will be subordinated to political goals. This is exactly what has happened, as more and more scientists working in the field are pointing out. What we are seeing, I think, is that linguistic deconstructionism has polluted its first scientific discipline. 

One of the basic tenets of postmodernist linguistic deconstructionism (which I learned how to do in my postgraduate studies at Vanderbilt) is that all text is tainted by bias and that objective points of view are impossible. Hence, the objective of expression is to exercise power. (Formerly the type of expression so designated has been confined, mostly, to those of history, literature and politics. But now even mathematics may be considered biased and subjective.)

Hence, there is no such as thing as objective truth and statements are never more than propositional in nature. A statement's truth content is never more than opinion, and opinions are nothing but expressions of power. Therefore, in a basic sense, all speech is power directed.

This is a fundamental world view of the Left and is derived directly from Marxism, as reworked by Leninism. Since Marx held that his communist theory was literally scientific, his economic-historical forecasts were not simply likely, they were certain. 
That is, Marx maintained that he was not offering merely one more historical treatise of human affairs, but an actual scientific proof that the proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie. To understand and partner with this inevitability was to be "on the right side of history" (which is where that overused cliché comes from). As formulated by Lenin et. al., truth is therefore not statements of objective facts, but assertions that move the communist revolution and its fulfillment closer to reality. "Truth" is therefore pliable and impermanent, the concept of truth being only practical. In practice, all of language became subservient to the dominance of the party, a fact recognized by George Orwell in his novel 1984 and its concept of Newspeak. 

That, comrades, is the Leftist, socialist world of Revolutionary Truth, a Marxist-Leninist doctrine that is fundamental to how the Left operates and rules. A good illustration of Revolutionary Truth" is when Rep. and self-described socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on 60 Minutes on Jan. 6, 2019, and said, “There's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right" (video at the link).

Because Marxism is a totalist system of belief, its devotees,
... want to impose a new order based on an “all-or-nothing claim to truth.” They operate within distinctive parameters of a “theology of Armageddon — a final battle between good and evil” –  in which the stakes are nothing less than universal salvation. As outlined in Eric Hoffer’s classic, The True Believer, such movements have mastered the art of “religiofication,” that is, converting political grievances into messianic aspirations and “practical purposes into holy causes.”
"Truth" is therefore whatever brings the Revolution closer to reality. This was a world view fully adopted by Leninists and their successors. Truth is only accidentally connected to objective facts, which is exactly what AOC meant when she dismissed any connection between morality and facts.

The Left's domination of the academy began in the humanities departments. The penetration of the Newspeak mentality into the sciences probably began with what we now call climate science. In fact, Earth Day's founding in 1970 has Leftist roots, the original April 22 date not coincidentally being the 
birth date of Lenin himself. From the original "grassroots hippie" event, the whole of modern-day environmentalism was born. And environmentalism has never been freed from its Marxist-Leninist roots.

What this means is that when climate science became dominated by the Left (well, it began that way), then its purpose was not to determine scientific truth, but to use science to exercise political power. A standard Leftist critique of the West's standing values was that they were social constructions, not rooted in objective reality (which does not exist, anyway), but in class struggles. That was the Left's entrée into the sciences, as Richard Rorty explained in AtlanticOnline, 
Starting with the claim that homosexuality, the Negro race, and womanliness are social constructions, they go on to suggest that quarks and genes probably are too. "Ideology" and "power," they say, have infiltrated sterile laboratories and lurk between the lines of arcane journals of mathematical physics. The very idea of scientific objectivity, they say, is self-deceptive and fraudulent.
If scientific objectivity is a fraudulent concept, it does not mean that science is of no value. It simply means that science is just another tool for the class struggle and that it can be used on the right side of history. Like any other expression, scientific expressions are therefore concerned not with facts but with power. 

So whenever any of my Left-leaning friends tell me I should just "trust the experts" or yield to "the science," I know they have conflated two very important but distinct things. First, the discipline of science itself and second, the scientists who practice that discipline. For while science can be said to be a moral discipline, it by no means follows that scientists  are automatically moral persons. Scientists may be as venal, greedy and grabbing as anyone; simply possessing certain degrees and credentials does not cleanse their souls. When scientists - at least a large number of them - figure out that money, honors, awards, and positions will follow from some but not other scientific declarations, then it is all too easy and self-justifiable for them to accept a political leash. 

Power is the only goal of the Left. When global warmists mount ad hominem attacks against skeptics, comparing them to Holocaust deniers for example, most of us see those attacks as tacit admissions of failure of the scientific argument. But the Left does not see them that way since the scientific argument is just a form of power expression. Ad hominem attacks are, too, and so, like science, are just a tool in the toolbox of power plays. They are an attempt to change the terms of the battle (and battle it is.)

That is why the Left is immune to accusations of hypocrisy, which is, "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not : behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel." Leftists frequently contradict what they have already said, and the contradictory statement is declared just as emphatically and absolutely as the one it contradicts. To accuse them of hypocrisy is to waste time. A true statement to the Left is one that advances their causes; its contradiction of an earlier declaration is simply irrelevant. The prior statement advanced their cause and the present one does too, they think, and that is the end of the "hypocrisy" debate. After all, they consider your accusation of hypocrisy to be nothing but a power play anyway, so why should it influence them? And why should they shun self-contradiction if it happens to advance their power? 

However, most of our country is not Leftists, far from it. We cannot let the Left set the terms of public debate. We have to keep hammering on the facts and that the Left has bent science to political power-play ends, and that environmentalism is a political movement, not a scientific discipline.

We need also to reject the idea that scientific expression is merely another way of expressing opinion. Although empiricism has its own difficulties, we need to recover a strong sense of a philosophy of science that undergirds science as relating to objective facts about nature. This does not mean that science has no social context, as NYU physicist Alan Sokal pointed out:

Science is a human endeavor, and like any other human endeavor it merits being subjected to rigorous social analysis. Which research problems count as important; how research funds are distributed; who gets prestige and power; what role scientific expertise plays in public-policy debates; in what form scientific knowledge becomes embodied in technology, and for whose benefit -- all these issues are strongly affected by political, economic and to some extent ideological considerations, as well as by the internal logic of scientific inquiry. They are thus fruitful subjects for empirical study by historians, sociologists, political scientists and economists.
The problem is that when the externals become dominant, then in a real sense it is not science that gets done, but something else dressed in scientific costume. There is a danger there that Sokal presciently pointed out 11 years ago: 
There is nothing wrong with research informed by a political commitment, as long as that commitment does not blind the researcher to inconvenient facts.
The real "Inconvenient Truth" about climate science is that it is serving, rather than informing, a political agenda. And that is exactly what the next four years will bring in growing strength to the United States. 

Update: This headline from the WSJ sums it all up: "Legion of Gloom -- Biden and friends are still trying to justify the coming expansion of government"
In a dreary Tuesday speech in Wilmington, Del., President-elect Joe Biden suggested that some schools should remain closed through April--and even longer if there is not another huge round of federal spending on education.
 
Mr. Biden, discussing the period following his Jan. 20 inauguration, said:
Another 100-day challenge is opening most of our K-through-eight schools by the end of the first 100 days in the spring. Look, we can only do that if Congress provides the necessary funding so we get schools, districts, communities, and states the resources they need for those so many things that aren’t there already in a tight budget.
 Taxpayers may be even more depressed to learn they will now be asked to fund a Biden administration program to persuade people to ignore the message of the Biden presidential campaign. 
Grow government: It's what they do. It's really all they do. And note author James Freeman's sentence that this speech contradicts "the message of the Biden presidential campaign." Of course, but so what? 

Update, Feb. 6: Massachusetts' undersecretary for climate change, Charlie Baker, said it's time to put the screws to ordinary people to break their will
“So let me say that again, 60% of our emissions that need to be reduced come from you, the person across the street, the senior on fixed income, right … there is no bad guy left, at least in Massachusetts to point the finger at, to turn the screws on, and you know, to break their will, so they stop emitting. That’s you. We have to break your will. Right, I can’t even say that publicly.”
Every government climate bureaucrat is at heart simply a dictator. 

Updated and revised from original publication in 2009

Saturday, January 16, 2021

"The Staggering, Heartless Cruelty Toward the Elderly"

That is a headline in The Atlantic, which sub-heads the piece by Rabbi Shai Held, "A global pandemic doesn’t give us cause to treat the aged callously." 

As someone tweeted at me earlier today, “To be perfectly honest, and this is awful, but to the young, watching as the elderly over and over and over choose their own interests ahead of Climate policy kind of feels like they’re wishing us to a death they won’t have to experience. It’s a sad bit of fair play.”

Notice how the all-too-familiar rhetoric of dehumanization works: “The elderly” are bunched together as a faceless mass, all of them considered culprits and thus effectively deserving of the suffering the pandemic will inflict upon them. Lost entirely is the fact that the elderly are individual human beings, each with a distinctive face and voice, each with hopes and dreams, memories and regrets, friendships and marriages, loves lost and loves sustained. But they deserve to die—and as for us, we can just go about our business.

And that point of view may well become federal policy: "Ezekiel Emanuel, tapped for Biden’s coronavirus task force, has controversial views on aging."

Emanuel’s role on the board has garnered controversy due to a 2014 article he penned in the Atlantic. In it, Emanuel wrote that he hopes to die at the age of 75, as he believed that life past that point “renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.”

In the article, he strongly implied, though did not outright state, that as a matter of policy, life-extending medical treatments should be withheld from anyone age 75 or older. Here is the article

What Rabbi Held has not grasped (or maybe he really has) is that "the elderly" are being classified the same way as the non-elderly: by class identity. After all, why should they not be "bunched together as a faceless mass" when that is the only acceptable way to identify people in this age of identity politics? You are not you, singular, you are you, plural. You are not defined by yourself but by people who share mostly-superficial characteristics with you. And you have no choice to opt out of this identity-political classification. 

The reason is that today, rights belong to groups, not individuals. Actually, rights do not "belong" to anyone or any group. Right are conferred upon us by those have gained social and political power to decide. That means that some groups have more rights or stronger rights than others. Which group enjoys more rights than others is simply a matter of which is strongest at any given time. 

And that means that American politics is primarily concerned with gaining power. 

The slide into power-politics began decades ago, but accelerated in the 1990s. But it was forecast long before then by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power. 
President Eisenhower at the Fourth Annual Republican Women’s National Conference on 6 March 1956.

No longer can we include American politics within a moral universe. American politics today does not seek to find and strengthen the things that unites Americans into common cause and shared citizenship. It dismisses that such things exist anyway, for in identity-power politics, there is only class struggle, not unity. To speak of "unity" among disparate identity groups is merely to adopt the supremacist, and therefore oppressive, language of the dominant ancestor group that invented the term to begin with. In America, of course, that means whites. 

The need to cleanly distinguish between transgressors and innocents means that in identity politics, everyone must have an unequivocal group affiliation. My father's family emigrated from Lebanon; my mother's family emigrated from Wales, Holland, and Germany. I am Protestant, rather than Catholic. None of these descriptors – over which wars in Europe, the Mediterranean region, and America have been fought for several thousand years – matter to identity politics. Until and unless the category of MENA is given sanction by the US government, I am white – and therefore a transgressor. Nothing more. 

Joshua Mitchell, professor of political theory at Georgetown University in his book, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time, Kindle p. 72

"Unity," then, means one thing to the Right and an altogether different thing to the Left. But at bottom, Right and left agree (unwittingly) on this: They each think the other side promotes "unity" as shorthand for "do what we demand." But there is no reason to make such demands of other people unless power is what the demander is really after. 

An illustration from the looming inauguration of Joe Biden as president will serve. The Biden transition team announced to fanfare that "America United" will be his inauguration theme. Well and good, who could argue that disunity should be the theme? Besides, as the AP points out, "Unity has long been a theme, and anxiety, for new presidents."

Maybe pursuing unity is why Mr. Biden decided to savagely compare Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to Adolf Hitler’s top propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Why? Because the two senators, along with about half the electorate (according to nonpartisan polls) still think there are too many unanswered questions about the integrity of the presidential vote. So they are Nazis, Biden wants us to think. Now there's a call for unity! 

He might do well to consider Prof. Mitchell's warning, "Unity achieved by scapegoating another person or group is a cheap imitation of the genuine communion for which we long. Identity politics chooses the cheap imitation as a shortcut to the real thing. Always." 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

At least our politicians are honest, and other notes

 

Former US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2)

“I’ve seen it happen,” she continued. “Google will have a bit reception and members of congress will go and pick up their checks. Facebook will have a big reception and they’ll go and ‘hey, where’s my check?'” And that is the definition of an honest politician

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House Democrats have introduced a bill to abolish the electoral college via constitutional amendment. Because they hate a representative republic. 

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Did Trump Incite Violence? Raheem Kassam Demonstrates The Timeline Doesn’t Work. But this will be ignored because narrative. 

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Did Trump incite violence, part 2: The FBI warned the Capitol Hill Police before Jan. 6 that Congress would be targeted. 

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We Need a New Media System -- If you sell culture war all day, don’t be surprised by the real-world consequences. More than ever, American media's central objective is profits, not truth. 

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From last October: 'The country’s lost its mind': Polls warning of civil war, violence shows deep partisan chasm over election. Think the numbers would be more or less of that view now? 

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But remember: Trump is Hitler and his supporters are fascists.  PBS lawyer seen on video calling for children of Republicans to be put in re-education camps


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But remember: Trump is Hitler and his supporters are fascists, part 2: 


That is not a parody Twitter account. It has hundreds of thousands of followers. They are not joking. But this is not hate speech. To be hate speech, it would have to say one of the following instead of "conservatives": blacks, Democrats, gays, transgenders, Hispanics, lesbians, progressives, and who knows how many other protected identity groups. That would be hate speech. But if it is about mere conservatives, it is rational discourse, amirite?
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But remember: Trump is Hitler and his supporters are fascists, part 3: Antifa Demands Powell's Stop Selling Andy Ngo's Book, Forces Store To Close Early

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Speaking of Trump, you know how it goes for brutal Nazi dictators: Evil Fascist Dictator Censored And Voted Out Of Office

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Speaking of Trump, you know how it goes for brutal Nazi dictators, part 2: They get impeached a second time.

Monday, January 11, 2021

New York Times: Nancy Pelosi calls for military coup

OMG! What if Trump orders this before Jan. 20!
But that cannot happen, read on to see why -
and why Nancy Pelosi's urging of a military coup 
against Trump must be condemned.

Even the New York Times characterizes one of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's recent actions as coming narrowly close to inciting a military coup against the president. According to the NYT,

Ms. Pelosi also said she had spoken with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about “preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes.” . . .

But some Defense Department officials have privately expressed anger that political leaders seemed to be trying to get the Pentagon to do the work of Congress and Cabinet secretaries, who have legal options to remove a president.

Mr. Trump, they noted, is still the commander in chief, and unless he is removed, the military is bound to follow his lawful orders. While military officials can refuse to carry out orders they view as illegal, they cannot proactively remove the president from the chain of command. That would be a military coup, these officials said.

The NYT did not have to print what those Pentagon officials said. That the reporter and editor included it proves they agreed with that assessment. 

And yet, somehow it is only Donald Trump who is trying to destroy the foundations of our government, amirite? 

Reuters reported the phone call, too,  with a truly uninformed nitwit being quoted:

While Pelosi’s letter highlights the concern among lawmakers about what Trump may try to do during his remaining time in office, there are questions about what Milley or anyone could actually do to stop a president from using nuclear weapons.

“There is no legal way to do this. The president has sole, unfettered authority to order the use of nuclear weapons with no ‘second vote’ required,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California.

I am sure Prof. Lewis is an expert on something. Nuclear launch procedures are definitely not one of them. This sentence he spoke is factually incorrect, period: "The president has sole, unfettered authority to order the use of nuclear weapons with no ‘second vote’ required."

I was a nuclear-target analyst during my military career. I decrypted and validated Nuclear Control Orders, which are the most tightly controlled messages and actions used by the Defense Deptartment. And I can tell you authoritatively that Nancy Pelosi knows bupkus about what it takes to launch a nuke. If she had ever been briefed, she would never have made this phone call. 

Fact: The president is only one of the people who must approve the launch. Actually a valid and actionable launch order can be sent and acted upon without the president's order or even his involvement - but only under extremely unusual and pre-defined circumstances. It is safe to say, though not precisely accurate, that a nuclear launch cannot occur without a president's orders -- but it is not correct that the president alone (note that word: alone) can order it.

Prof. Lewis' statement would be accurate this way: "The president has the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, but there are other 'votes' that must concur; some are technical procedures and some are not." 

I will not list the steps that have to be done to launch a nuke. In fact, I will never reveal them. But here is a clue: the Denzel Washington/Gene Hackman movie Crimson Tide just scared the crap out of me.

And here is Bloomberg News' explanation of launch procedures. It, like the sequence in Crimson Tide, is accurate as far as it goes, but at least it does not say, as Prof. Lewis does, that the people in the chain of command from the White House down to the launch crews are mere puppets in the hands of a president.  

It is not credible that any speaker of the House would not know what these procedures are. I do not believe that Pelosi therefore really thought that Trump might go rogue and start nuking Moscow and Peking and Pyongyang (or San Francisco?). 

So what was Pelosi really trying to accomplish with this phone call, especially since those of us who served in the Pentagon can tell that Gen. Milley basically told her to mind her own business? 

It is not coincidental that Pelosi was already scheduled to be on CBS News 60 Minutes program the evening after she made the call. And she gave a press conference after the call, also. So what was the real purpose of the call? It was certainly not to restrain a rogue president from ordering nuclear launches. 

The purpose was the shameless self promotion of one Nancy Pelosi and the further demonization of Donald Trump. It was to signal the American people that they are all going to die in nuclear war except for her heroic steps and that (here is the real point:) President Trump must be removed from office now, either by impeachment or via the 25th Amendment. 

As always, Nancy Pelosi has no goal but "get Trump." No matter what, he will be out of office at the stroke of noon Jan. 20. And what will Nancy Pelosi do then? 

Maybe this is relevant: "National Guard Troops Deploying to DC Will Come With Lethal Weapons."

Army and Air National Guard members deploying to Washington, D.C. to help guard the capital and stay through the Jan. 20 inauguration will have access to lethal weapons at their commanders' discretion, Guard commanders said Friday.

On inauguration day 2016, Antifa et. al. rioted most of the day and burned down blocks of D.C.'s stores and buildings. Who was sent to bring them under control? DC police whose use of rubber stun bullets itself became the target of violent protests. 

But for this inauguration, military weapons. And not by Trump's order, but by demand of D.C.'s Democrat mayor. But remember: Trump is the fascist. 

NASCAR is boring now

I am currently watching the rain-delayed Daytona 500 NASCAR race and it has already made me think of an essay I wrote after the 2012 race. A...