Monday, September 30, 2013

Debt ceiling: Dick Morris sounds like a heretic on the importance of the nation's honoring its bills

Tonight, Dick Morris appeared on CNN (Piers Morgan, as I recall), and for completeness, I’ll note his unorthodox view that a debt ceiling fight and default risk should be undertaken, perhaps as “cold turkey”.  His website is here and I can do without his annoying sign-up popup (pun with baseball intended).
  
I looked around, and it seems, on the surface, that Morris thinks that all “real debts” (interest payments) could be met, and that Social Security and Medicare payments could be made, although entitlement reform (the usual steps of increasing retirement age, and some means testing of some benefits) is essential and needs to be immediate.  But his main target is Medicaid and welfare, which he sees as wasteful and not a proper government function, but one that goes with families, charities and volunteerism.
  
He also has material that suggests that a debt ceiling default would be met simply by closing more departments, like the FCC (telecommunications companies would love that, except that the law requires them to get new wireless devices approved by the FCC). 
     
Here’s a Morris interview from the debt crisis of the summer of 2011.  He likens it to maxing on your credit card limits.  The problem with that analogy is that if you can’t pay your bills, you don’t cut out dining out, you stiff people, and you can really hurt them.  Morris doesn’t seem to think that keeping promises and contracts really matters. 


I’d love to see detailed responses to his ideas.  There’s not time tonight.
  

There’s no point in staying up tonight to follow the foolery in Congress.  Right now, I have MLB on (the Rangers are one out away from a loss at home).  If I wake up at 4 AM for an Ibuprofen break (after my recent total tooth replacement) will I check my cell phone?  Maybe.  It looks like the practical deadline for a shutdown is noon Tuesday Oct 1, not midnight tonight.  

"Wonkblog" on Washington Post calls government shutdown a gospel, because it makes a debt default less likely

Ezra Klein offered a little missive on the Wonkblog on the Washington Post (not to be confused with Tim Lee’s “The Switch”), with title, “The House’s shutdown plan is great news”, link here.     It’s a gospel because it makes a default in late October less likely.

Klein writes “A shutdown is, after all, just bad for the economy.  A default is catastrophic for it. You have to be insanely reckless to permit the government to default on its debts. And Boehner believes the House Republicans are insanely reckless and Obama isn’t.”'

There is an analogy to how severe weather works.  When a cold front approaches, severe weatther is less likely if it is cloudy first with some rain, so that some of the fight in the atmosphere has dissipated more slowly, lessening the violence of the real event.  
   
As the debt Armageddon approaches, you’ll see websites post charts on just what the Treasury receives each day and what owes.  This happened in the summer of 2011.  We’ll have a pretty good day-by-day prediction available.  The White House has refused to speculate on what it would do, for good reason.  Remember, former President Clinton said that he thought Obama should invoke powers under the 14th Amendment to borrow anyway, and there was talk of minting a trillion dollar platinum coin.  And analysts like Porter Stansberry claim that such measures would cause the rest of the world (especially China) to stop accepting dollars (as “reserve currency”) altogether, leading to immediate financial ruin for everybody.  Could a default bring on a Stansberry-like scenario?  There’s a question on top of this: it isn’t what Obama decides, it’s what the Federal Reserve decides, isn’t it?
  

I’m particularly galled when I hear “tea party” Republicans like the former Michele Bachmann say, “Oh, the government will just have to get by with less.”  She seems to ignore the fact that the government owes money for purchases already made.  Others say, “we can find people to do without.  Wealthier seniors don’t need their Social Security and Medicare.  They can make the personal sacrifices.  We just don’t have the money.”  John Boehner actually said this in the early summer of 2011.  That’s the way left wing (and sometimes right wing) revolutionaries talk.  That’s the kind of talk that precedes overthrows, wars,expropriation, "purification".  and confiscations, like we saw from both the Nazis and the Communists earlier in the 20th Century.  Talk like Bachmanm's is the financial equivalence of violence and force, as well as playground bullying, deciding who to label as "It".  

One fast question: Isn't there a "majority" of moderate Republicans and Democrats in the House to restore sanity?  The hardline "tea party" caucus doesn't control the entire House, does it?  And remember the hype over the "Fiscal Cliff" last New Year's?
     
It does look like a shutdown is coming at midnight, and Klein, at least, writes as if it could last a while. I do empathize with federal workers and cotnractors who are told that the world really doiesn't need theim all the time. (Don't say that to active and reserve military, when there are multiple terror threats to national security.)  Again, that's the message from some of the GOP.  I wrote on my IT Jobs blog yesterday that I had watched a shutdown threat while I worked for Census, and resented it.  It feels shameful to have your life taken awaty from you to meet someone else's agenda.  Look at the Palestinians on the West Bank.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

GOP shifts attention from shutdown to debt ceiling; uncertainties seem as great as in previous fights

The Wall Street Journal has a front page story Thursday morning, by Damian Paletta and Kristina Peterson,  warning “U.S. Running Out of Cash More Quickkly: Treasury now sees crunch by Oct. 17; No deal to fund government in sight”, link (paywall) here
  
There is not a lot of detail, but the government would be unable to meet about 30% of its already spent obligations in November.  
  
Surprisingly, the article doesn’t seem to recognize that Social Security is itself a bondholder and probably gets first in line to be paid.  We visited this point last winter, and a discussion among law professors in the New York Times emphasized this point.
    
Other reports suggest that the GOP is willing to “negotiate” to avoid a government shutdown Oct. 1, and wants to focus on leveraging against the debt ceiling Oct. 17.
   
There is something evil about threatening to stiff ordinary citizens (like federal contractors, for openers, at least), to pay for “other people’s problems”.  Totalitarian governments do that all the time.  The United States must not.  But there seems to be some hidden virtue in keeping sudden sacrifice in the background.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CEO's say they are having trouble talking sense to GOP "tea partiers" who want to hock nation's financial system over Obamacare for ideological reasons

The rhetoric concerning the silliness of the hardline position of some Republicans over Obamacare, and wanting to hold the debt ceiling hostage to it, is heating up. “TheHill” has an op-ed by Judd Gregg on the matter. here. Gregg maintains that supporters of this position have “never governed” and are more interested in their own fund-raising and in getting attention.  That this makes the entire GOP look bad right now is a no-brainers. The term "Russian Roulette" like the famous scene in the 1979 film "The Deer Hunter" (but with all guns loaded) comes to mind.  
    
Tory Newmyer, of CNNMoney, writes that major CEO’s seem powerful to bring sanity to GOP politicians whom they normally support, here It would seem that these CEO’s ought to be able to weigh some influence on the fund-raising in more “anarchistic” districts that seem so vulnerable.  But there is a perception that big business, which can bring its own kind of stability, is against small business, and this seems to be causing the GOP support base to crack now.   (And a good part of the Wall Street establishment is democratic, even socially liberal – a fact many observers don’t recognize.)
   
The popular opinion is that retirees are especially vulnerable to being stiffed by a default.  But we’ve covered here that the Social Security Trust Fund is a primary bond holder and would have good chances in court to keep everything coming in from the Treasury. CNN yesterday raised the remote possibility that during a shutdown, social security employees, some of whom might not be essential enough, could be unable to process payments – but almost all the payments are automated and direct deposit.  “Unbanked” beneficiaries might be the most likely to have immediate problems.  There’s a more subtle danger, as I have noted on retirement pages.   If social security benefit payments ever did get delayed, Congress could put in means testing, politically driven, to keep some recipients from ever recovering them.  Forced sacrifice, however, used to be the rhetoric of the far Left when I came of age in the 1970’s.  Now I can see it on the far Right.  


Brad Plumer has a study in the Washington Post on what happens on Oct. 18 (Treasury Secretary's drop dead date), link here.  What about Porter Stansberry's dire predictions about the dollar as a reserve currency? 

And here's something about intergenrational responsibility, social capital, and Ovamacare, link. How about filial responsibility laws? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Presidents have toyed with the debt ceiling before -- they just didn't tell us

The president has repeatedly said that it is not appropriate to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to extract policy concessions. That certainly sounds right. 
  
But yesterday, on CNN, New Gingrich and a couple other observers noted that presidents have negotiated on the debt ceiling ever since Eisenhower.  What explains this apparent contradiction?
Presidents have had to contemplate “the unthinkable” ever since World War II.  Particularly during the Kennedy administration, there were serious possibilities of nuclear destruction.
  
In some people’s minds, this amounts to “revolution” (as in the NBC series).  Infrastructure is destroyed, money becomes worthless, and people start over.  There is a new moral order.  There is a curious problem in saying we value all human life but then have a system were only those who can function and compete socially survive, in a world without much technology.  But in other ways, we have that same paradox today.
  
The point is that presidents are used to the idea that a “way of life” can come to a sudden end, just as it often has in history.  But that idea seems to lead to a cavalier attitude toward protecting stability and infrastructure.
  
The biggest danger from a debt ceiling blowup is probably not just social security benefits and military pay (which would probably continue), but because of the loss of the meaning of our currency.  It’s conceivable that for many people savings and accumulated wealth – the bedrock of stability for many (and the ability to look away from the homelessness of others) could evaporate. 
  
In fact, it’s a good question as to why we even have a debt ceiling at all.  Still, without one, the Federal Reserve just prints more money.  At some point, certain financial prophets (like Porter Stansberry) say, the dollar is no longer accepted around the world, and a collapse ensues. 

The idea that “Armageddon” can be imposed (by nature, as with extreme solar storms, or by terrorists, as with EMP, or by political ideologues of the Doomsday Prepper variety) does feed into a lot of moral thinking.  Virtue emphasizes the idea that it isn’t just about “you”, it’s about whether you have a human stake in who will follow you.  That’s naturally very difficult for many people, so politicians try to scapegoat those who distract everyone from what is seen as necessary socialization.  Just look at what Putin is doing in Russia.
  

So, let me come back to Obama.  I wish it were unacceptable to drag the lives of all of us into a debate about the hardship for “relatively” few caused supposedly by “Obamacare”.  It’s true, that while the Affordable Care Act will offer just that to many people, it will also cause hardship.  There are real problems with people being put on part time – and I thought that the law had been delayed for a year for employers.  There are problems with the reasonableness of individual premiums for some people, even with supports.  There are new constituent people being suddenly put out.  And unfortunately, some in the House, especially, feel that their constituents’ very real problems won’t be heard until everyone is held hostage.   Are we really all in this together?  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

US Air Force almost nuked North Carolina in 1961, right after Kennedy's inauguration

The Guardian is reporting on a declassified document showing that the US Air Force nearly caused a nuclear disaster with an accident with a bomber flying over Goldsboro, NC on January 23, 1961, three days after President Kennedy’s inauguration.  (“Ask not…”)

Two hydrogen bombs fell to earth, and the circuitry on one of them nearly led to its going off.  Besides total destruction in the area, radioactive fallout would have been serious all over the East Coast.
     
CNN reported the story Saturday afternoon.  The Guardian link is (web url) here

I wonder what my own life, given my temperament, would have been like.  My personal fiasco at the College of William and Mary would follow the next fall.  I would be a “patient” at NIH during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when it seems a sole Russian submarine commander prevented Armageddon.  I would not have been fit to survive such a world.  Is that a personal moral question?  "Duck and cover" wont't cut it. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't get debt ceiling issue mixed up with government shutdown; GOP House goes through motions of defunding Obamacare before shutdown

Well, here we go taking sides again.  Friday morning, the House voted to defund Obamacare as part of the resolution to keep the government running after Oct. 1. Of course, it will fail quickly. Ezra Klein weights in on this, following up on Dionne’s op-ed yesterday, in the Washington Post today, here. Klein does a pretty good brushup on the facts about the Affordable Care Act. Klein, on the Wonkblog, argues that GOP plans, with all the portability and the like, won't take care of a lot of the uninsured. 

I caught a TV ad, didn’t note the name of the sponsoring org, which confused the government shutdown (Oct. 1) with the debt ceiling limit issue (about Oct. 18).  I won’t belittle the fact that some people, especially some federal employees,  get put out by a shutdown – in fact, part of my quitting Census in late 2011 was related to not wanting to be a pawn of someone else’s political agenda. The potential calamities from a real government default in late Oct. can affect many more people.  It is true that Social Security has more legal aces up its sleeve to keep paying benefits than Democrats admit – but it is the value of assets itself that matter if the dollar collapses as a reserve currency if the government can’t pay bills already run up or keeps printing too much paper money. (It that sounds like Porter Stansberry, so be it.)
  
My point in mentioning the ad, is that organizations never get all the facts right.  That’s why I don’t expend much effort supporting them and am not very loyal anymore.   Mixing up the government shutdown with the debt ceiling is a big “error”. 

For those ideologues who don't want the government involved in helping less well people get insurance, what do you want?  To let them die?  For family members (regardless of having children) to have to be responsible?  For the rest of the public to pay higher bills to cover them?   Be specific.  Balanced plans provide coverage in countries like Switzerland and Germany without being too paternalistic.  What's wrong with this?  True, insurance should be portable.  


Thursday, September 19, 2013

GOP thinks it can't afford to "lose" on Obamacare, whatever the personal sacrifice of people

E.J. Dionne follows up in the Washington Post today with a column “Why the Republicans are desperate for a shutdown”, link here.  The Post also has disturbing stories of the personal sacrifice, mostly among federal employees and some people needing certain medical services, resulting from the political “hostage taking”.  There is also a disturbing story that a substantial portion of the public, especially Republicans, think that the debt ceiling should not be extended even if it meant that the government failed to pay all its bills on time and the result was sacrifice and sudden extreme hardship for some Americans.  In general, the debt ceiling issue (Oct. 18) sounds much more serious than a potential Oct. 1 “shutdown”.  And Newt Gingrich has been saying that the GOP should open every conversation with “We want to keep the Government open, but…”.  Indeed, “Yes, but…” wasn’t an excuse when I was a kid.

Dionne argues that the GOP doesn’t want Obamacare to be allowed to work (which it almost certainly will, given time and freedom from political disruption) because then the party ideology will have no purpose.  The hardliners feel that it can’t be allowed to work, period.  If that means taking hostages, whether cancer patients who don’t get treatment or retirees whose savings evaporate if the dollar or economy collapses, too bad.  We all have to take our lumps and depend on “family.”

In fact, the way some social conservatives use ‘family values” as an excuse for bullying is particularly offensive.  What, you’re supposed to support mom and dad when they don’t get social security checks?  (That risk is overblown as I have explained, but it makes a certain point.)  You’re supposed to protect your “family” (maybe with an armed fortress) if civilization is allowed to fall apart?

I wrote at length about this at some length on my main blog yesterday.  In my situation, there’s no way to be a victim.  It is what it is.  If I’m taken hostage, whether by an indignant carjacking kidnapper physically or by a political battle that wants a purification so it can start over, it’s over for me.  It is what it is. 
  

Social conservatives think that “inequality” should be remedied by people taking care of one another personally, largely through the “natural family” and that sexual morality (regardless of “personal responsibility that goes with adult choices) should become the great equalizer.  “They” stumble when dealing with the inequality that demands attention outside the family.  Sure, volunteerism from churches, going overseas (Belize, Nacascolo, as I have covered before) can be impressive but is only a start.  And, true, there are some things in a society that have to get done by individual people, and sometimes they get done better if everyone believes everyone else will share in the risk and obligation.  But there are some things you cannot solve without public policy. 
In contrast to the Post and a NYTimes editorial recently quoted, Karl Rove criticizes the GOP strategy as self-destructive, driving away independents in the WSJ here. And NBC questions whether the GOP really wants to end Obamacare, here

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

GOP still wants to hold nation's solvency hostage over Obamacare

This is indeed a time to say “No, no”.  Maybe the GOP has a fixation on depilatories.

Seriously, this morning President Obama had to state in a press conference that the ability of the United States to pay bills for debts it has already incurred cannot be made a bargaining chip in making public policy.

He had to say that in January, and Congress did “kick the can down the road” by suspending the debt ceiling, so to speak, for a while.  But now the “drop dead date” is said to be October 18, 2013, a Friday.

Some more radical financial columnists have warned that if the US defaults, the rest of the world would somehow nullify the dollar as a reserve currency, throwing the US into another sudden financial liquidity crisis, dwarfing 2008.  

President Obama spoke right after both John Boehner and Eric Cantor spoke, broadcast by CNN, and tried to link the budget negotiations, continuing resolutions to continue the government after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and even extending the debt ceiling to “defunding Obamacare”.

This kind of behavior is about as reckless as it gets.

Curiously, Wall Street boomed today as the Fed said it wouldn’t stop bond purchases.  But what happens after Oct. 18? 

According to Porter Stansberry and others, the real problem is that the Fed can print as much currency as it wants.  There’s really no reason to default, except that the dollars would be worth less.  That’s why China and others could suddenly stop accepting them. 

If the Fed can’t borrow because of Congress’s intransigence over Obamacare, can it just print the money it wants?  Them what happens?

I wrote about this yesterday here.  And it blows up today.  I have been Libertarian to Republican most of my life, but I have never favored anarchy.  
  
The New York Times has just posted major coverage on this showdown today, but the most telling is the intra-party bullying within the GOP, editorial this morning in print, here

It’s frightening to see the GOP hold a whole economy hostage over “mandatory insurance” (which even the GOP says is all right when states do it). It’s true, there is a problem that some employers have an unwieldy incentive to hire fewer people or make them part time. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Debt ceiling problem approaches; could dollar as "reserve currency" be at risk?

A website called “Fix the Debt” has a technical update on the federal debt this morning here   The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration is again warning Congress that it could run out of money to pay bills “already ratcheted up” by Oct. 18.
  
It’s also shocking that polls of Americans show that they don’t think that the debt ceiling should be extended.  Is it time for sacrifice?   (More than sequester?)
  
Social Security may be “safe” because the Social Security Trust Fund is a bond holder, and can get first in line to get paid anyway (or litigate in federal court if necessary, maybe with the help of the AARP). 
  
What’s not safe is whether the rest of the world will continue honoring the dollar as a “reserve currency” if there is a technical default.  Porter Stansberry, and others, have warned of immediate financial panic and have already urged wealthier Americans to remove assets to overseas.

And national security is not safe.  A fiasco in meeting current obligations would make a terrorist attacj at home only more likely. 


This is nothing for the ideologues in the GOP to play with.  Do they want lawlessness, for all of us to be holed up like doomsday preppers protecting our “families” with assault weapons, like in the Mad Max movies?  Do they want the end of civilization? 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Liberal Post commentator uses Colorado gun-issue legislator recall as a reason to criticize hyperindividualism

E.J. Dionne has an important op-ed on p. A17 of The Washington Post Monday, September 16, 2013, “Colorado’s Morality Lesson”, or (online) “The Colorado recall’s morality lesson on guns,” link  (web url) here
  
Dionne gives some social science study results on the participation of voters on issues when they feel directly involved as to their own fundamental rights, and this helps explain why, in a low turnout, an extreme position on an issue like guns could hold the day.
  
But Dionne goes on to criticize hyperindividualism, particularly as it has evolved in a world of geographical individual mobility (which I experienced my whole working life, often moving), to online self-expression, which had started well before social media evolved (as I have proven myself).  He mentions the loss of neighborhood solidarity that enabled a collective watch over (other people’s) children, and the sharing of common goals and values.  From a liberal, we hear some moral posturing that reminds me of the “natural family” crowd.
  
Some fundamental psychological capacities come under examination. These include the ability to “see people as people”, as my own father used to lecture me, and how this fans out into being able to take care of other people when that is needed (not just because you created a baby).  There is the question as to whether taking care of others means “taking care of your own” first.  Not always.  Consider the experience young people can get by going overseas for brief church mission retreats, or on first jobs (say, engineering in the underdeveloped world), or when in the military or Peace Corps. 

The incident at the Washington Navy Yard continues to unfold this morning, but it will probably add to the intensity of the Second Amendment debate.  
     

There’s a related posting on my “main” blog Dec. 18, 2012.  When do we need to back off a bit on our “fundamental rights”? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

DC mayor vetoes "Wal-Mart" bill, which would force super-minimum wage

ON Thursday, September 12, 2013, Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed a city council bill that would have required most large retailers to pay a “living wage” (including benefits) of $12.50 an hour. The DC minimum wage is $8.25.   The bill had been called the “Large Retailer Accountability Act” and applied to  non-union retailers with more than 75000 square feet in the District and more than $1 billion annual sales from parent companies. The Washington Times has a story by Andrea Noble (website url) here
   
The veto can be overridden next week if just one DC councilmember changes his or her vote. This can lead to intense personal lobbying,  
    
Mayor Gray said that he feared that the bill would drive businesses and jobs away.  Wal-Mart had threatened to cancel three of six projects in the City, including a badly needed facility near New York Avenue in NE, and possibly even all six eventually.  Others argue that minimum wage jobs are not the kind of employment the city needs to attract. They also argue that wages of other workers will remain lower because other employers will not feel as much pressure to raise wages.   The bill probably could have raised prices for consumer slightly, less than 5%.
  
The libertarian position is, of course, that wages should be unregulated.  A person earns what his or her skills are worth on the open market.  Such a view doesn’t take into account “inherited” disadvantages, the “place in line” where someone started work life. 


David Madland and Stephen Moore speak in the PBS video above.
  

This problem very much fits into Robert Reich’s “Inequality for All”.

Update: September 17

The DC Council did not override the veto, and protests then took place, story on WJLA here. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Colorado, Miissouri take gun debate to absurdity; What will Piers Morgan say?

Piers Morgan will have a lot of fun with the latest outcries in the Second Amendment “debate”.
     
In Colorado, voters recall two state senators who sponsored strict background check laws in the aftermath of Aurora and, years previously, Columbine.  The recall succeeds despite a $300,000 contribution from out-of-stater Michael Bloomberg to defeat it.  (The Yankees don’t play the Rockies often, but the Mets do.) 
   
What’s the reasoning?  Background checks means giving out PII, and the NSA will have our personal data if we buy gun?  Yes, somebody actually said that on camera.  I recall, when I worked for Census, we couldn’t give out PII even to police or FBI or any other agencies at all!
     
It does sound like secessionist, doomsday prepper mentality.
   
The Fox News story by Joseph Weber is here

Missouri tries to make it a crime to enforce federal gun laws within the state. (Secession?  I thought only Texas could do that, just as Texas can split into smaller states.)    But the (GOP) measure to override a Democratic governor’s veto  fails in the state senate by one vote, as reported by Fox here
  
At least, the idea of prohibiting the publication of names or addresses of gun owners is a good one (remember the situation in update New York). Maybe that will be submitted separately and pass.
  
Here’s Breitbart’s story where Piers Morgan says he doesn’t want all of America’s women armed with guns, link
  
Picture:  Front Range behind Denver, Wikipedia link  Note how the mountains take on a bluish look.  I first saw it in December 1966 when traveling with other grad students.  Haven’t been there since 1994; it’s about time, isn’t it.  Terrible floods in the area today. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Washington DC teachers start to make house calls

Here’s a new wrinkle for teachers, at least in Washington DC: house calls.  In some grade schools, teachers are making 30-minute home visits to parents.  Emma Brown has the story (wesbite url) here
  
That sort of thing might have seemed unthinkable when I went to school in the 1950s in Arlington VA, but teachers did meet the parents:  in grade school, there were two conferences a year (November and April), and two report card periods (January and June).  Of course, all teachers went to PTA nights. Sometimes the teachers gave hints as to what would be on the next test!
  
But the teaching profession seems to be getting more personal 

Update: September 13

The NBC Today show presented the "City Year" mentoring program as carried out in Washington DC today, link

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Re-homing": An underground process where adoptive parents outplace difficult foreign children

NBC News, in a report called “The Lost Children”, described a process called “re-homing”.  Parents who have adopted foreign children with disabilities and have great difficulties turn to the Internet to find new homes.  The children are offered to “strangers”.  Typically the parents don’t turn to authorities because the fear they will be deemed “unfit parents” for future adoptions.
  
Kate Snow reported.  The parents turn over “temporary custody”.  One teenage girl was taken from adoptive parents in Texas to a "new family" in Illinois and found she had to sleep in the same bed as the “mother”.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The "re-homing" practice could cause foreign countries to not want to allow American adoptions (as with Russia). 
   

Generally, children cannot be “unadopted”.   

Monday, September 09, 2013

Libertarian scholar writing on Cato "comes out" for the military draft, sort of

I found on a Cato Institute site a curious article by Pacal-Emannuel Gorby, “The Libertarian Case for National Military Service”, with a headline "National Service: What do we owe?", link here.

Gorby makes an example of Switzerland, as a country with generally libertarian values, but which requires every male to serve in the military and remain prepared.  He goes into some obscure analysis of the Second Amendment, his own.  I’m not sure that Piers Morgan would approve.

The writer even introduces the idea that claims on time (and risk) are as valid as taxes on money. I even recall that notion from grade school. 
      
The problem, of course, is government’s requiring a sacrifice from people, which in the past used to apply to men only.  It’s fine for a private institution to want to require a period of service from employees or students.  This gets into the debate trying to differentiate the subjects of politics, ethics, and morals, and they are all a bit different. 
  

Take a look at this. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

New America Foundation president calls for a culture of caring as well as compassion; more on the supposed deterioration of social capital

The Washington Post has an article on p. B3 of the Outlook Section, Sunday, September 8, 2013, by New America Foundation president Anne-Marie Slaughter, “America should care more about caring”.  The online title is more specific, “Anne Marie-Slaughter envisions an America where caring is as important as competing”, link here. Here professional link is here
     
She mentions some basic postulates.  Human beings cannot survive alone.  Individual expression only matters when others can receive and relate to it.  But our culture does not now always value “breadwinning” and “caregiving” equally, an process she says as necessary for true equality.  When one has been in a situation of doing or managing caregiving, not by choice but by filial responsibility, this becomes a bitter personal lesson.
   
It is true that most of her remarks can be understood from a certain safe distance.  It’s true that public policy needs to maintain and protect infrastructure more than facilitate short term profits.  It’s also true that her view of equality would ultimately promote gender equity and even sometimes support same-sex marriage and parenting.  Her remarks indicate that responsibility for caregiving go way beyond the decision just to have and raise children, even properly in marriage.
  
The more challenging question is what a culture that promotes “caring” would mean for personal morality.  It could mean that people have to accept shared goals defined by their culture, including long-term viability, something we call “generativity”  (emerging from “conformity”) and a process that can invite religious, cultural or even political authoritarianism, and limit individual innovation.  It could mean that people grow up learning to care before they compete with others on their own, or can be listened to.  It could, in some people’s minds, define principles that limit access to sexuality to readiness to take on responsibility for others, especially procreation and child-rearing – the Vatican view – as a way of setting social priorities for everyone so that these things always get done and risks are shared.  It does sound like what in the 90’s we called “family values”, but with a serious caveat.  Much, even most of the time, people stop their sense of caring at the boundaries of family, or sometimes tribe – as if surrounded by a psychological moat.  Different peoples remain in conflict with one another, with the big decisions under the control of authoritarian politicians.  Individualism might seem to challenge this isolationism and insularity when moving out from the family, by encouraging people to reach out and connect to others on their own (the Facebook effect).   Yet, really effective “caring” and outreach in more challenging parts of the world cannot be accomplished without people’s being socialized first within family or local community.  “Intentional communities” and urban groups (like the Ninth Street Center in New York in the 1970s, which spoke about the ability to "care about individual people" as a virtue) find this out all the time. On the other hand, some church groups, doing mission work overseas (as in Central America) find younger adults and teens open to a degree of social intimacy with "strangers" that would seem off-putting to older people.  
  
Some political libertarian writers, like Charles Murray (Books blog, March 12, 2012), have become properly concerned by the erosion of social capital (or “eusociality”) and the personal insularity that comes with hyperindividualism.  It can lead disadvantaged communities to come to believe that there are no moral values at all, and contribute to the brazenness of some of the anti-social behavior we see these days. (See my "drama" blog, Nov. 4, 2012).  It seems that for me personally, though, that "caring" is more a moral problem, of "right and wrong", than something I really welcome as an experience.  Maybe it is a character issue.  



Thursday, September 05, 2013

Libertarian Party of Virginia gets the roadside and yard signs out quickly for 2013 elections

In north Arlington VA, I see some Libertarian Party candidates for Virginia House of Delegates (Laura Delhomme) and Governor (Robert Sarvis) for the state election this fall.


That probably needs that the county needs poll workers election day (and used them for a primary), although the turnout is probably pretty low.  I’ve done that three times, but you have to be at work by 5 AM and stay until around 9:30 PM for very low pay.  Retirees tend to do it.  There’s been talk that this is a basic obligation like jury duty.

I went to a Libertarian Party of Virginia (link) convention in Richmond in June 1995.  At the time, gun rights was on everyone’s mind.  I also went to another all day event luncheon with Harry Browne in Manassas in May 1996, when the mantra was “repeal the income tax and replace it with nothing” and the guest speaker was Irwin Schiff, author of “The Federal Mafia”. 

I see that the Libertarian Party of Minnesota (link) is quite active. LPMN used to have conventions every April, often held at Mystic Lake, a casino south of Minneapolis off highway 169.   When I landed in Minneapolis with a corporate transfer in 1997, I became active with the group quickly, which helped promote my DADT book.  I gave talks at Hamline University (with students taking notes) in February 1998 (while on crutches from my convenience store accident), the University of Minnesota (1999), and twice at the Dakota Unitarian Church (1998, small group, and 2002, full service), and a very small turnout at Moorhead State in a snowstorm in November 2000.  The Hamline speech was broadcast on a Minneapolis cable channel (the “Liberty” program), and I have a DVD of it.  I should get the whole thing uploaded to YouTube.   Go to this link and search in the browser for “Hamline” and there is a series of brief excerpts that play in Quicktime or Windows Media Player.  Note especially videos 32-34.  I actually briefly considered being LPMN's candidate for US Senate in 2000.  Jesse Ventura was elected independent governor of Minnesota in 1998, and later became associated with the Reform Party, but was known for libertarian views; today he tends to talk a lot about conspiracy theories.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

There are many "intentional communities" in major cities (including DC area)

On April 7, 2012 I reported on a day visit to an “intentional community” in central Virginia, “Twin Oaks”, northwest of Richmond.  I had the impression that most of the communities were way off the grid in rural areas (like Lama in New Mexico, which I visited twice in the 1980s while living in Dallas).
    
But the Sunday, September 1, 2013 Washington Post Metro section has a big story on smaller urban “intentional communities” in the DC area, by Michelle Boorstein.  The print story has the title “The Zeal World”, but online the title is more specific, “D.C.’s ‘intentional communities’ put strangers in a house joined by core values”, link here. I didn't know there were so many in metropolitan areas.  They could become even more common in the future, maybe even necessary.
   
Later on, I'll have to make a ground visit to one or two of them, locally.
   
Frequently, these communities require income sharing.  As a result, it isn’t surprising that many have long waiting lists of people wanting to move there.  It would seem as if “intentional communities” could make a good topic for an AP social studies high school term paper – if the student could spend a few days there.  Yup – this is the first day of school in northern Virginia; history teachers, take a hint. I used to sub.
  
The community getting the most attention in the Post story is Maitri House in Takoma Park, MD, but many others are mentioned.  I had no idea there were so many.
   
But even back in the 1970’s in New York City there were plenty of food coops.  People got up at 5 AM to go buy for them before going to work. Maitri expects its residents to offer “radical hospitality” for participants in social activism (like last week’s March on Washington anniversary celebration).  Could that be expected of ordinary homeowners, too?


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Indiana man prosecuted for teaching clients how to beat polygraph (because he "knew" they would lie)

Apparently it’s a federal crime to teach somebody how to lie on a federal polygraph test, at least if you know your customer will lie.  This sounds a bit like the “know your customer” stuff that was often criticized by libertarians in the late 90’s.

Matt Zapotosy reports on the federal prosecution in Virginia of Chad Dixon, for “wire fraud” and amounts to “obstruction of justice” in the Washington Post Metro story Sunday Sept. 1, here. Dixon. from Indiana, actually pleaded guilty. 
  
Apparently obvious first amendment issues are overridden if the defendant knows the client intends to lie.

But if federal polygraphs are not allowed in court, why are they still accepted in background investigations or sex-offender monitoring?
  
There is a site by George Maschke, “AntiPolygraph”, which anyone can look at here,  but which advises users to view with the protection of the Tor Browser Bundle.  Well, I didn’t bother to look for it.  I guess the NSA knows I just looked at it.  The government has a lot more to worry about (like Syria, Iran, North Korea, even Russia).

  
George’s video above is “The Truth about the Polygraph (according to the NSA)”.

“Polygraphy is all about interrogation.”  The video reports a rumor that the NSA asks employees about pornography viewing habits.
   
A couple times in my career there were rumors that employers would use it, but they never did.

Well we head for the “No Lie MRI”.